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  • Writer's pictureBenay Hicks

How Book Harvest Planted the Indy Book Project Seed

Indy Book Project founder, Gina Sprenger, and her first volunteer: her daughter Elle!


By Gina Sprenger, Founder of the Indy Book Project, and former Book Harvest volunteer

Four years ago in October, I walked into Book Harvest in Durham, North Carolina. Having recently moved to the area, I was lonely, scared, and desperate to get involved in my new community. I first met Daniele Berman and Meytal Barak at a volunteer orientation and immediately signed up to be a greeter on Thursday mornings. I soon got a little bored sitting up front and found my way into the back where I sorted books in between visitors. I revisited beloved stories from my childhood, learned of new authors and titles for my children, and started to follow authors like rock stars. I formed wonderful friendships with other volunteers and met fascinating people (authors, salespeople, and my favorite, children looking for books).

I have always been passionate about reading and books. But until Book Harvest, I didn’t realize how much it meant to me that all children have access to books in their home.

In July of this year, my husband was relocated to Indianapolis for work. When we moved, I searched all of the local nonprofits to continue my desire to help children have access to books. I couldn’t find anything like Book Harvest in Indy. So because of my experience at Book Harvest, I decided to start my own nonprofit: the Indy Book Project! We brainstormed names, collected books from our community, and are currently building our board and applying for nonprofit status. We are off!

In the past month, we have provided books to a program that serves children learning English as a second language. One special box headed out to recent refugee families from the Democratic Republic of Congo who lived in Rwanda for 15 years and now call Indy home. They received a Thanksgiving basket of food and books from the Indy Book Project.

Last week, as I drove to an afterschool program for teenagers, I started to wonder if it was worth all the effort. I started to question if anyone really needed books and whether maybe they could find the books somewhere else. I nervously walked into the afterschool program with my books. I looked around and saw all of the teens hanging out playing video games, then returned to my car to bring in another box. As I returned, I saw the students already tearing into my box of books. They were excited about them and told their friends about titles and authors.

The director of the afterschool program told me that she is now planning on creating a bookshelf for the students to pick out their own books. I walked to my car excited about the future of the Indy Book Project. The enthusiasm of the teenagers reassured me that books are needed in my community and I have chosen the right path.

I am grateful for my time at Book Harvest. Although I was a volunteer, I now realize it was an incredible learning experience. I cherish the people at Book Harvest who are committed and working tirelessly to ensuring that children have access to books in their own homes. The passion I developed at Book Harvest inspires me to continue on this path. Congratulations to Book Harvest for the lives you have changed by providing one million books to in North Carolina. We will continue your work in Indy as we follow your lead!

Want to learn more about the Indy Book Project? Visit their website, follow them on Facebook, or email Founder Gina Sprenger at indybookproject@gmail.com.

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