Stacks of thousands of shiny, new children’s books proudly stand in a donated room at Project FLIGHT’s Book Bank in The Buffalo and Erie County Library, waiting eagerly for their new homes. The fragrance of freshly inked pages fills the air as a librarian and students from SUNY-Buffalo State College carefully sort them by age and subject matter for their new owners.
Twenty pallets of books were donated by Feed the Children and delivered by Christian Appalachian Project’s (CAP) Operation Sharing Program. The books will be distributed by service agencies throughout the area to K-12 children for whom a new book to take home can feel like a luxury.
“The partnership between CAP and Project FLIGHT over the past 10 years has helped to promote the education empowerment and literacy of the children living in poverty in Buffalo, New York,” said Geraldine Bard, Ph.D., co-director of Project FLIGHT. “Buffalo is ranked fourth in child poverty in the nation; all heavy industry is virtually gone, and Buffalo has changed in terms of being a hub of industry where people can be employed.”
Project FLIGHT serves the northern subregion of Appalachia. Its mission is straight-forward: to promote literacy in children and caregivers through school and family literacy initiatives. It collaborates with community organizations like CAP, schools, and businesses to meet the needs of Appalachia’s most vulnerable population.
Bard and her co-director, Betty Cappella, Ph.D., form a leadership powerhouse for the organization through their work at SUNY-Buffalo State College. Bard is Professor Emerita, a linguist who teaches grammar, writing, and film. Cappella, a SUNY Distinguished Service Professor, retired dean, and psychologist specializes in family studies and education psychology. Both are unsalaried, giving their time and talents for the university.
“I’m 77, and Geraldine is 76 and we will never stop,” said Cappella, laughing.
They wholeheartedly helped unload books from the CAP semi-trailer, alongside their board members, staff, and a donated forklift driver from a local private business.
The results from the program are undeniable. Cappella noted, “The Buffalo City Schools attributed their rise in the state ELA scores to the books they receive from us.” The ELA score measures overall performance in English, reading, and writing.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 65% of fourth graders read at or below grade level. Studies show that if a child grows up in a home with more than 100 books, they have a 90% probability of graduating 9th grade, compared to 30% in bookless homes. On average, children in economically depressed communities have 0-2 age-appropriate books in their homes.
Project FLIGHT has earned endless praise and numerous awards for its literacy programs since its inception. “But none of that matters if a child is still in poverty and cannot read,” Cappella said.
For more information visit projectflight.org.
Christian Appalachian Project's Operation Sharing Program partners with over 1,300 nonprofit organizations, community-based agencies, churches, and schools across all 13 Appalachian states, as well as Arkansas and Missouri, to collect and deliver donated goods throughout Appalachia. In nearly 40 years, Operation Sharing has delivered more than $2 billion worth of donated materials to more than 1.5 million people. For more information, visit christianapp.org/operation-sharing.
Story by Shannon Holbrook.