Chesapeake Bay's Independent Newspaper ~ Since 1993
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Volume XVII, Issue 52 ~ December 24 - December 30, 2009

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Reading Tree Books for Charity

Who’s behind this blue box front?

Drive-up recycling adds a new chapter in Chesapeake Country with the appearance of Reading Tree big blue collection boxes in Safeway parking lots, including stores at Annapolis, Arnold and Dunkirk.

“We collect gently used books to get them into the hands of children,” says executive director John Barger. A non-profit organization, Reading Tree claims to have distributed over 1.7 million books to needy schools and libraries. Barger tells Bay Weekly that books collected by Reading Tree are “all donated, never sold.”

Begun in Boston in May, 2000, as Hands Across the Water, the organization changed its name in 2007 because half the books it collects stay in the United States to support Title 1 schools. Title 1, enacted in 1965, provides federal assistance to school systems with a high percentage of students at risk of failure and living at or near poverty. For an entire school to qualify as Title 1, at least 40 percent of its students must enroll in the free and reduced lunch program.

Books not suited for children are sent overseas.

“We just sent a container of popular American paperback novels to India,” Barger says. “There we traded with local book wholesalers for children’s books in the local language and donated those books to schools. While most of our overseas donations are going to the poorest slums of India, we have also donated books in Nigeria, Kenya and the Philippines.”

Headquartered in Farmington, Utah, Reading Tree has now located its signature blue collection bins across the country.

“We’ve been in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Seattle,” says Barger. “We’re moving into the Washington, D.C., area.”

Reading Tree receives most of its funding from corporate grants and cash donations.

Reading Tree’ collections achieve another goal, reducing contributions to landfills. Boxes are emptied and books stored by a commercial recycling partner that profits from pulping books not suitable for donation.

Want to know more about drop-box recycling? Read Bay Weekly’s Yellow Box Front (

issue_45/lead1.html) about used-clothing collection boxes benefiting Planet Aid and Mid-Atlantic Clothing Recycling.

–Margaret Tearman

Santa Shops

St. Nick and Westfield Annapolis Mall make the holidays a little jollier for 25 kids

In the age of Twitter, texting and email, a letter may seem obsolete. But pen and paper worked wonders for 25 lucky children who submitted their Christmas wish list to Santa Claus.

The Westfield Annapolis Mall partnered with Santa to fulfill Christmas wishes for the kids at a Wishes and Dreams Ceremony December 22.

Seven hundred children submitted holiday hopes, which Westfield elves narrowed to 24 from the Boys and Girls Club of Annapolis and one from the general submissions.

The requests were short, but the range in Christmas hopes was wide.

Some children relied on Santa to know the specifics.

“I want shoes and my size is 12, and clothes,” wrote six-year-old Pablo Chavez.

Seven-year-old Rico Matthews wanted a “PSP” — that’s a PlayStation Portable Gaming System — “or basketball stuff.”

Some of the children made sure there was no confusion on their Christmas list.

“Barbie Doll head, not the whole body, just hair,” requested Destiny Harvey.

Kisplam Green won over St. Nick with artwork — sketching her Christmas list in the allotted space.

As the Westfield elves started shopping for the holidays, they noticed some common threads in the requests. Eleven children asked for clothes, six asked for video games and two wanted slippers.

“I’m the middle child of five, but we all get along and play together a lot,” writes D’Andre Covert, who wanted puzzles and Redskins stuff.

This year, with the help of Westfield, there will be more games for the families to play.

–Diana Beechener

This Week’s Creature Feature

This holiday, consider adoption

Ensure your spot on the Environment’s Nice List this year by giving the gift of green: a sea turtle. Your adoption of an endangered sea turtle from the Caribbean Conservation Corporation can help save the species from extinction.

For a donation of $25, you get a photo of your charge, a subscription to the CCC’s quarterly newsletter The Velador, and an adoption kit — complete with stickers, magnets, a turtle conservation guide and a window cling.

Better still, you can check in with your turtle online. Each adopted turtle has a satellite tracker so you can follow migratory patterns on interactive maps.

Your adoption helps fund conservation programs and research to develop a sustainable way to rebuild the dwindling sea turtle population.

If you’re ready to adopt or just want to track the turtles:

–Diana Beechener