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Westminster College Distributed 35,000 Free Books to Area Teachers; Donations Sought to Provide for More Local Children

Friday, May 9, 2014

NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. - After a successful distribution of 35,000 books to area teachers on Wednesday, First Book-Westminster has received another challenge: to raise donations to provide even more books to area children. Anything raised between now and Sunday, May 11, the national First Book organization will match that dollar amount up to $10,000.

According to Dr. Eileen Morelli, First Book-Westminster adviser and associate professor of education at Westminster, contributions made will be used to provide even more books for low-income children in Lawrence and Mercer counties.

Every year First Book-Westminster needs to raise a minimum of $2,000 by Dec. 31 to award grants for new free books to needy children in the two counties, said Morelli.

"And what we witnessed this week - with the distribution of 35,000 books - is that there is an even bigger need in our community than just $2,000 worth of books," she said.

"Making this goal matters," said First Book President and CEO Kyle Zimmer in an email to Morelli. "It matters to moms striving to give their kids a better future. It matters to teachers going the extra mile for their kids. It matters to students eagerly learning each and every day."

Zimmer continued, "Opportunities like this are more important than ever. That's because about 7,000 new schools and programs sign up with First Book every month. That's about 175,000 more children asking for our help each and every month."

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Last fall, nearly 40 students affiliated with First Book-Westminster registered teachers and community organizations for the national First Book organization, a national nonprofit that has distributed more than 115 million books to children across the country over the last 21 years. They were rewarded with a truckload of 40,000 new children's books to distribute locally.

Westminster had only 5,000 books remaining after the distribution on Wednesday. The remaining 5,000 will be given to low-income children in Lawrence County through the "Feed to Read" program. Dr. Alison DuBois, assistant professor of education and counseling at Westminster, coordinated that effort. 

According to DuBois, the Greater Pittsburgh Public Food Bank collaborates with local entities to provide breakfasts and lunches through the summer to children who qualify for free/reduced lunches in Lawrence County (and 72 percent of the children in the New Castle School District qualify for those free/reduced lunches). In Lawrence County, there are 21 sites and about 2,200 children who will be served breakfasts and lunches this summer.

Because research links poverty to lower literacy rates, and The Hoyt Center for the Arts has established the "Feed to Read" program which will provide a book to every child receiving the free meals. So, it works hand in hand with First Book's mission, which is to get a book into the hands children who need them the most. 

Nearly 400 local teachers were registered to receive 100 books each on Wednesday. School districts that were included in Wednesday's distribution are Ellwood City, Laurel, Mohawk, Neshannock, New Castle, Shenango, Union and Wilmington in Lawrence County, and Farrell, George Junior Republic, Hermitage, Lakeview, Mercer, Sharon, and Sharpsville in Mercer County, as well as teachers from West Mifflin and Campbell (Ohio) school districts.

Westminster is the only First Book college organization to receive the award. Only eight other truckloads were awarded in the country. The other awards went to larger metropolitan areas across the country. The new books distributed Wednesday were for newborns to 18-year-olds and were from Hyperion Press and Disney Publishing.

For more information, please contact Morelli at 724-946-6035 or email. 

About Westminster College...
Founded in 1852 and related to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Westminster College ranks first in the nation as "Best College for Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math," according to Forbes.com. Westminster is a top-tier liberal arts college and a national leader in graduation rate performance, according to U.S. News Best Colleges guide. Westminster is also honored as one of "The Best 378 Colleges" by The Princeton Review, and is named to the President's Honor Roll for excellence in service learning.

Nearly 1,600 undergraduate and graduate students benefit from individualized attention from dedicated faculty while choosing from 41 majors and nearly 100 organizations on the New Wilmington, Pa., campus. Visit www.westminster.edu/advantage to view "Advantage: Westminster" A Strategic Plan 2010-2020.