Washington Township grad starts book drive for children in need

Alyssa Barrett hopes to collect 2,000 books by end of the year

Alyssa Barrett (left) and Ava Fisher (right) at the Drive Thru Drop Off for BookSmiles at WTHS on Nov. 28. Over 500 books were collected.

Washington Township High School graduate Alyssa Barrett has started a book drive to help kids in need discover a love of reading. 

“I have always been very passionate about books and reading, because it has been such an important part of my life from when I was little,” Barrett said. “Without books, I don’t think I would be where I am today.

Barrett graduated from high school in 2012 and has always looked for ways to help her community. She was part of the township high school’s Interact Club (a community service organization) and joined Project Sunshine, a nonprofit focused on helping pediatric patients during hospital stays, while studying at the University of Delaware. Now she is attending Temple University Law School and plans a career in family law. 

“I have never done a book drive before,” she said. “I was always involved in community-service projects; for example, in high school, I was a member of Interact Club and my sister, Ava Fisher, is a member now. I have been talking to her about how to get Interact involved in this.” 

After discovering her parents’ basement was full of old books, Barret reached out to BookSmiles, a nonprofit that gives underserved children in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs an opportunity to build personal libraries. The organization collects new or gently used books between infant and eighth grade levels. With the help of BookSmiles, Barrett found a new home for her old children’s books and is helping others do the same. 

“I was blessed to have access to an unlimited amount of books,” she noted. “Whether it was going to the library and picking out a book, or my mom taking me to Barnes and Noble … I really wish every child could have that same experience.” 

Since her book drive started two weeks ago, Barrett has collected over 1,400 volumes. The books were donated through drive-thru dropoffs at the high school and a donation box at Salon Giavanna Marie in Sewell

Barrett’s original goal was for 1,000 books, and she hopes to reach 2,000 by the end of the year. In order to reach that goal, she is holding two more contactless,  drive-thru dropoffs at the high school on Dec 12 and 19 between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. A second drop box will be located at MaxFit & Sports in Glassboro.

“At first, I said I would be happy with 500, but I would love to collect 1,000,” Barrett noted. “I was shocked when I reached that in a little over a week … I have been surprised by how much social media alone can attract so many different people.”

Barrett collects the books and brings them to the BookSmiles Book Bank in Cherry Hill, where volunteers separate and organize them by grade level. Teachers from Title 1 schools are then welcomed to pick out books for classroom libraries or for students to take home. With the drive, Barrett is setting aside 1,200 books for teachers in the Camden school district.

There are many ways for people to help Barrett reach her goal of 2,000 books. For those without books to donate, Barrett created an Amazon wish list filled with teacher-recommended titles people can purchase. These books will be sent directly to Barrett and will go to the book bank in Cherry Hill. The organization is also set up with Amazon Smile, where any Amazon purchase will have part of its  proceeds go to BookSmile. 

On the BookSmile website, there is also a link for those who would like to make monetary donations to the organization. 

For more information visit https://www.booksmiles.org

For the Amazon wish list visit https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/2RM6J6LYY5QJT?ref_=wl_share