Sunday, July 3, 2011

Promising Pages: Star Shelter Event

My friend started a charity called promising Pages to get books to poor kids.  Here's an aritcle I wrote for her...


I don't generally think of myself as growing up advantaged, but I certainly did, especially when compared with the children living at the Star Shelter in Daytona Beach, Florida.  Many families totaling up to 100 people live in 25 rooms at the shelter.  They get 2 meals a day and can stay for up to 6 months.  On Monday, June 20th, Promising Pages partnered with the Christ Presbyterian Youth Group of Ormond Beach, FL, to bring books to the children living at the Star Center in Daytona Beach.


Isn't life random?  I grew up in a house surrounded by books and a mom who had a conviction to read to me.  These kids at the Star Shelter have been uprooted by financial constraints, subjected to stressors too advanced for them, and stripped of most of their possessions.  Children in shelters have very few, if any books.  Sometimes it's hard to see how things are connected, but research demonstrates that life success correlates directly to literacy which correlates directly to income level and access to books.  A team of researchers concluded in Jeff McQuillan's book The Literacy Crisis "that nearly two-thirds of the low income families they studied owned no books for their children. As a result, direct access to books is extremely limited for these children, a fact that significantly impacts their educational growth and development as well as their sense of creativity and imagination."  Kids who are read to thrive.  Kids who are not read to sometimes never catch up.



Luckily, life also delivers people like Kristina Cruise of Promising Pages, David James of the STAR Family Shelter, and Katy Cuthill of Christ Presbyterian Church in Ormond Beach, FL.  These three organizations recently partnered up to intervene in the cycle of low income and impaired reading skills.  The difference is books, so they delivered.  


Youth group volunteers from the church cleaned and gift-wrapped books so they could be handed out as presents, a practice Promising Pages initiated.  Kristina Cruise of Promising Pages believes "there is a big difference to a child between a hand-me-down and a present.  Presents foster self esteem."  Jason, a youth group member and local Ormond Beach teen, volunteered to play "Erm the Worm."  Erm plays the equivalent of a book party Santa Claus and encourages the children to read and succeed.   David James of the Star Center was impressed with Jason's willingness to don a worm costume in front of his friends, commenting that "Jason got in the costume, got in character, he did a super job, he had the self confidence and self esteem to do it."  Mr. James congratulated Jason for great strength of character.  Nothing that is awesome is easy, and it usually takes many citizens working together to make an impact.  I'm impressed and inspired by these three organizations that came together to make life better for the kids at the Star Center. 


Mr. James, the Star Center Director of Community Relations, described the experience as "a great joy, surprise, and blessing" to the 20 children ages two through teens who attended the book party and received gifts.  He also said that the positive interaction between the children and the Promising Pages character "Erm the Worm" made the children "feel like they matter, that people matter."  Mr. James would "positively" do it again and added that there are a "handful of parents still talking about the event." 


Privilege is such a subjective thing.  So many of us lounge at Starbucks with a five-dollar Frappuccino, contemplating the scarcity in our lives, or some equivalent of that.  Mr. James said something to me on the phone that stuck with me.  He said, "so many people are living every day as though it's Christmas" and "with these families, one thing lead to another and they ended up in a shelter."  Personally, I try to take stories like these to heart, and to let them change me into a more mindful person, a person who recognizes my own blessings and who is willing to make the effort to make other people's lives better.  If you are reading this, I hope you will join me.


To donate supplies, funds, or books to Promising Pages, please visit Promising Pages.
If you would like to donate to the Star Shelter, please visit Halifax Urban Ministries.  


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