Last year, we began bringing Together Rising’s work to Glennon’s speaking events. It is our dream to somehow serve every city Glennon visits, to be introduced to communities and address their specific needs. We tested our dream out at an event in Herndon, Virginia.
We asked Becca, beloved minister of the venue, Trinity Presbyterian Church, what her community most needed. She met with her team and reported back, “BOOKS. Our beloved elementary school across the street serves many low-income students and always in need of books. We feel like we should collect kids’ books.” Herndon Elementary is a Title I school—57% students qualify for free and reduced lunch and 45% are English Language Learners. Many of the children don’t speak English at home and their families don’t have much money—so they don’t always have access to books when they go home for the summer.
The school’s privately-funded program to help the kids who were most behind in their reading had been recently cut. One passionate Herndon teacher, Lizette, was particularly sad and worried about her students. She started to dream about creating a Bookmobile. Her dream was that she and a team of other volunteer teachers would drive a truck into two of the most in-need local neighborhoods every Wednesday of the summer. They would set out boxes of books on blankets in the grass and the teachers would help the students choose suitable books. Then, the teachers would read with the students and send them home with the books, so they could keep practicing and enjoying all week.
Lizette’s dream was perfect — the only problem was she didn’t have any books.
We emailed all of the people registered for our Herndon event and asked them, if they would like, to please bring gently used, high-quality books. That evening, we collected over 2,700 for the Herndon Elementary Bookmobile. One of the event organizers painted signs for us to sell, too. All $1,622 made on the signs went to Lizette’s Bookmobile. Together Rising gave Herndon Elementary School a check for $5,000, so that they could restore the reading program. We were able to offer the community the love they deserved and support their local heroes like Lizette. And we got to see the power of our online community take shape in real life.