By Vicki PrichardNKyTribune Reporter
During her time working with the Diocesan Catholic Children’s Home (DCCH) Center for Children and Families, Kathleen “Mimi” Borne watched foster children come into care with little or no belongings, and rarely with books of their own.
In spite of the absence books in their life — or, perhaps because of it — she saw that the children had a desperate thirst for learning that stirred within them. She and her husband Joe had seen it in their own foster child. “Our first foster was almost five years old when he came into care with us,” says Borne. “I had to take him to the doctor just a few days after he came to stay with us and I promised him that if he was good, I would take him to the library on the way home.”
As it turned out, the little boy had never been to a library and had no idea what it was. “He had no idea what a library was,” says Borne. “Watching him fall in love with books, and being read to, was an extremely impactful experience for me.” Books, as it turns out, are a big part of Borne’s life.
The ‘Book Lady,’ as she is known, sells children’s books through Usborne Books & More, and she knew that increasing the literacy rates of children in foster care is critical to helping them break the cycle of low expectations, poor school performance, and the eventual poverty that they, along with their families, are often trapped in. She realized that through her work with Usborne she had an opportunity to get books into the hands of the foster children at DCCH – books of their very own.
“They [Usborne] really encourage you to get involved in your community and to focus on building literacy as much as possible,” says Borne. “They have a generous grant program where they will match donations at 50 percent when redeemed for books. I was really feeling called to use that program and DCCH was the first place that came to mind.” She ran the idea by Ron Bertsch, the director of DCCH Center for Therapeutic Foster Care & Adoption Program, who was all for it.
Soliciting donations from friends and family, Borne posted photos and videos on her personal Facebook page to chronicle the fundraising progress. The progress exceeded her expectations. “I had originally set a goal of $1000, but I ended up surpassing that and raising $2000,” says Borne. With Usborne’s matching grant, she was able to order $3,000 worth of books for DCCH.
“The donation of books have brought great joy to the children in foster care placement who were all given the opportunity to pick a book of their liking when they were first delivered,” says Bertsch. “I loved watching the kids light up when we said they could pick their own book, but even more so when we told them they got to keep it and take it home.”
A third of the books were provided to DCCH’s Guardian Angel School, which is located on the DCCH campus. The books were promptly put into circulation by Joyce Reckner, a retired librarian who Bertsch says has devoted countless hours over the last five years to organizing DCCH’s Guardian Angel Library. “When I told her about the donation, she was most excited, asking me every day when they would arrive,” says Bertsch. “Joyce reported that the children in DCCH residential who attend Guardian Angel have been eager to check out the new books which just tickles her to see that the children love to read a new book.”
Bertsh says remaining books are displayed in a book case and each month children are invited to celebrate their birthday by selecting another book as well as a toy from the DCCH special toy closet. “We knew the kids liked getting toys but did not realize how much a book was going to make their day too,” says Bertsch.
The book drive has made books available to the more than 80 children who go through DCCH programs. “We seem to have met our goal to bring the love of reading and interest in the written word to children who for most have never owned a book or had access to those provided like this in the school library,” says Bertsch. “We thank Mimi and all the community who donated cash to the book drive to make this dream a reality.”
Borne says she plans to run a book drive once a year. “I think DCCH is pretty well stocked up for books right now, so I’ll be looking for a new organization to bless in Spring 2017,” she says. “I can’t wait to see how much we raise next time.”