Donated books at Sayreville distribution center
Last month Dr. Debra Holland, writer and psychotherapist, contacted one of our Pocono Lehigh Romance Writers asking for donations of books. She was heading to New Jersey to stay with a friend and do volunteer crisis counseling at a shelter in Rutgers for victims of Hurricane Sandy. She said she knew from experience people at these shelters are bored and would love to read books. If we had children’s or teen books that would be great too. She also said we could sign them (if we were donating our own author copies) and add an inspirational note or card.
So we collected a pile of books and PLRW member Marianne shipped them off to Debra’s friend and they were brought to the Sayreville, New Jersey distribution center that FEMA and the Red Cross had set up. The photo above is a picture of some of the boxes we sent. These books were also shipped out to other centers.
Books can’t take away the pain from losing a home after a disaster like Hurricane Sandy. Many of these people lost EVERYTHING. Their homes, all their belongings and a lifetime of memories completely gone in one night. Sitting in a shelter with nothing to do but worry and think about their losses must be very difficult. We can only imagine. At least a book can provide distraction, mild entertainment and a little hope. The characters in books have courage and find strength to overcome insurmountable odds, maybe they can too.
One story Debra mentions on her blog really struck home with me and brought tears to my eyes. (Especially since I’m a Jersey girl) One man she counseled was having a difficult time and agreed to speak with Debra. He and his 17 year-old son left with only the clothes on their backs. They’d been wearing the same clothes for four days.
They talked for a few minutes and she provided words of encouragement, validated his pain. Then the man spoke out surprised, “You've only been talking to me for 10 minutes, and you understand what I'm going through!"
He told Debra when the storm started he took $100 of his own money and bought candles, then went room to room at the hotel where they were staying and handed them out. His son couldn’t understand why when these people didn’t care about his father. But his dad did it because it made him feel good. The boy’s mother had abandoned him at age six, so it’s difficult for him to believe people care. The man thanked Debra and was grateful that she cared.
Debra told them about the free books at the center and the man said he thought that was a good idea. His son likes to read science fiction. She told the man to make sure he told his son that the books were donated by people who care. Our group donated a number of different genres too. I donated a couple sci fi books. It would be nice to think this man’s son is reading one of those books and one day will have a bookshelf in his own room to place it in.
Check out Debra’s blog for her experience during her stay. It’s very heartwarming.