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  • Writer's pictureBenay Hicks

Coleman Whittier: One Volunteer, 40,000 Books, Countless Young Readers

By Ginger Young, Executive Director

When the calendar turned to 2018, something extraordinary happened: Book Harvest’s very first volunteer, Coleman Whittier, completed her seventh year of serving as Book Harvest’s volunteer liaison to the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service. She also decided at the end of that incredible run that it is time to step down from her role and let someone else continue the bookshelf-stocking tradition she started with IFC.

During her time delivering Book Harvest books, Coleman placed more than 37,000 books on the hardworking little shelf at IFC and another 3,000+ on the nurses’ shelf at the Carrboro Community Health Center. She showed up on her appointed rounds every Monday like clockwork. She has been as reliable as each day’s sunrise, unflaggingly cheerful and determined, and a constant source of inspiration to me. She has delivered books in snow, sleet, rain, and incredible heat and cold. She has stocked shelves through injuries and in the midst of family demands and milestones. Through it all, she smiled and quietly spread her warmth and goodness.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of local children have home libraries thanks to Coleman. I am quite sure that even as I write this, a mom or dad is snuggled up with a child, reading a book together that Coleman placed on the IFC shelf.

For quite some time after her retirement, I expect that Coleman will retain the title of our longest serving volunteer and the individual who has placed the most books of all (40,000+!) on our shelves, to be harvested by young readers. She will be a hard act to follow and deserves massive celebrations!

I recently asked Coleman what her favorite memory was from her time as a Book Harvest volunteer. She replied:

One of my favorite memories of my time stocking the shelf at the IFC was one morning when there were 3 or 4 kids between the ages of 2 and 10 in the waiting room with their parents, and as I started to straighten the shelf and add new books to it, they all circled around me on the floor, and we talked about what kinds of books they like, and I passed some to each. So much fun! They were bright eyed and eager to find some books to show to their parents and to take home.

I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with the kids, but there weren’t always kids there at my usual delivery time on Monday afternoons between 4 and 5 pm. That was a somewhat slow time at the IFC. But I adored Monday afternoons because that was when Jim Pike volunteered at the front desk. Jim and I became friends on those Monday afternoons. While I stocked the shelf, we talked about our lives, families, and interests, and of course shared our favorite books. Jim, if you’re out there reading this blog post, “Hello! …and I miss you! I hope you are well, enjoying your retirement, and still reading and singing a lot!”

Coleman added, “My time volunteering for Book Harvest was a gift I will treasure forever!” We will treasure YOU forever, Coleman. Thank you!

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