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  • Writer's pictureBenay Hicks

Indy Book Project: One Year and 10,000+ Books

Indy Book Project volunteers Leslie Hall and Ann Merlo celebrate the organization’s 10,000th book.

About a year and a half ago, longtime Book Harvest volunteer Gina Sprenger moved from Chapel Hill to Indianapolis. When she couldn’t find an organization that was providing books to kids in her new community like Book Harvest was in North Carolina, she decided to start her own: Indy Book Project. Our staff recently had the chance to catch up with Gina as her organization marks its first anniversary.

“Around the corner and down the street, there lived a dog with great big feet.” Every night, my dad read the same story, Hound Dog by Nancy Hoag to me and my three sisters. My mom worked the evening shift as a nurse so it was always our dad that read to us as children. He wasn’t a confident reader but he had the small picture book memorized. He was an autoworker that valued books and education for his children. Our dad wasn’t a reader but he would tell us about our grandpa who didn’t have a lot of money but was an avid reader with a small library that meant a lot to him. The message was clear as a child. Reading is important. Time spent each night with a parent reading is important. Books are important.

All children deserve to have access to books regardless of where they live. Access to books is important. So important, that the Indy Book Project was started a year ago to ensure that there would be access to books for all children food banks, medical clinics and other agencies in the Indianapolis area.

I asked some of our core volunteers why they volunteer at the Indy Book Project. Time is precious. And there are many worthy opportunities to get involved in your community. They all said giving back to their community is important. But, why books?

“Reading became a major outlet for me during my teenage years and reading series like Harry Potter and Twilight allowed me to escape to different worlds. Being able to provide books to children, who otherwise may not have access, allows me to hopefully provide other kids with the chance to escape and find comfort in the words on the pages they are reading, said Katie Collier, Indy Book Project board member.

Leslie Hall said, “I always read to my kids, and now I’m reading to my grandkids. I loved when my girls were little, and we could read the same book a bajillion times and they would be excited each and every time. Then they got older, and we’d read chapter books, one chapter a night. I’d have to hide the book, so they wouldn’t sneak it out during the day to read ahead. I hope that the books I sort at the Indy Book project can give other kids that same love for reading.”

“I’m a recent retiree and The Indy Book Project appealed to me for these reasons, first it is serving a critical element of the community – underprivileged children, second I’m involved with a nonprofit in its infancy and am contributing to its growth and finally it is a friendly and flexible environment which fits with my schedule,” said Ann Owens Merlo.

Shawnda Dancy, said “I stumbled upon The Indy Book Project after finishing up a different volunteering project that had a similar purpose – helping children to love literacy. I have continued because it is a fun way to give back to the community, meet new people, and further my personal love for books and literacy.”

“I see how much joy books bring my kids and how much they have gained from having them in our home and I want that for other kids too. Having worked in healthcare with a low socioeconomic population, I saw firsthand just how many families didn’t have access to books. It broke my heart,” said Stacy Thompson, Indy Book Project board member.

Our volunteers show up and bring their passion for books and community. They are bringing light into the lives of the children they serve as they sort, sticker and box up the books. The books are given to the children as a message that they matter, books matter and education matters. Access matters. And just as my dad showed me nightly, books have the power to change a child’s life, even a small little book that a child could memorize.

If you live in the Indianapolis area or know someone who does and you want to learn more about how you can get involved with The Indy Book Project, visit their website at


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