February-June 2007.- Students, parents and teachers at the Pingry School kicked off their book drive on February 2nd [Watch Videos: 1 | 2 ]. Spearheaded by students from the Bianco, Carver, Ramaswamy-Shekhar, Steele and Vanech families, the initial goal was to collect 25,000 books along with the necessary funds to ship them to South Africa this summer. However, the group ended up collecting twice that amount!
Critical to the success of this book drive was the way parents and then general community members from all across central New Jersey came out in support of the initiative. A most special acknowledgement has to be extended to the Headmaster as well as the faculty and staff of the Pingry School who went out of their way to support the students. The commitment was to the extent that Headmaster Nathaniel Conard supported the use of a room to sort and pack the books for the duration of the drive and the Director of Facilities, Mr. Michael Virzi arranged to provide pallets for the packed books and assisted the volunteers in how to stack and shrink wrap the finished collections.
Led by Christina Vanech, Emma and Chloe Carver, more than 150 volunteers came to the Pingry campus on Saturday, February 24, to sort through some 14,000 donated books. These included several thousands collected by Emma and Chloe's brothers, Sean and Reeve, along with their classmate Neeraj Shekhar, who concentrated on running book drives in the Pingry Elementary and Middle Schools.
Founded in 1891, Pingry now has 1,000 students on its two campuses in New Jersey. Students come from twelve counties and over ninety municipalities. The decision to support this project in aid of South African school children is an extension of the school's honor code, that: "They should act as responsible members of the community, working for the common good rather than solely for personal advantage. They should honor the rights of others, conducting themselves at all times in a moral and decent manner while at Pingry and throughout their lives as citizens of and contributors to the larger community of the world."
With such a successful start, the drive got a big boost when Mike Steele, drawing on his decades of experience in transportation and logistics, helped the volunteers reach out to willing companies and facilitated the arrangements for the container to South Africa. With that headache out of the way, the students could concentrate all their energies on book collecting.
Other New Jersey Schools Join-in To Support GLP/Pingry Book Drive
Throughout Middle Jersey more than a dozen schools decided to support our dream of creating libraries for South African School children as well as for children living in orphanages. Our point people, Christina Vanech, Emma Carver and Chloe Carver began spreading the word about the book drive with help from school mates Elizabeth Moore and Ross Millard. When Ross mentioned it to his siblings who attend different schools, they were so interested that Jane Steele (luckily for us) with the support of Anne Delaney and Denise Vanech, encouraged them to propose that we expand the drive to any interested nearby schools.
Christina' worked with her brother Nicky, a fifth grader at Chatham Day School (formerly the Darcy School), to quickly get his entire school involved.
With the support of Head of School, Dr. Pamela Fiander and the school's Community Service Coordinator, Mrs. Donna Greco, Chatham Day School would collect hundreds of books that Christina would eventually earmark for a small township school in Soweto, South Africa.
At the Willow School, Lilly Steele approached her Deputy Headmaster, Dr. Michael Kris to coordinate a school-wide book drive during the month of April.
Francis Steele led the drive at the Far Hills Country Day School where she saw the school community rally together to end up collecting over 8,000 books in fantastic condition.
Charlotte Steele and Ally Millard led the drive at Kent Place and then brought their school mates out on several weekends to sort and pack at the collecting site that Pingry provided. Other schools that jumped on board included the Golden Door Charter School, Harding Township School, Millburn and Summit High Schools, the Purnell School and the Cottage School.
Several community groups and institutions such as the Bernardsville Cub Scouts, the Clarence Dillon Library, the Chester Library and Kangaroo Kidz have all contributed.
More than just simply donating, many of our participants are using the book drive as a learning opportunity to learn about and highlight the wonderful diversity of cultures in Africa.
The book drive ran from February to May 2007. Books were also collected at Christ the King Church in New Vernon. A dozen students and their parents along with several teachers and the middle school's librarian also intend to travel to South Africa where they will help create a library in a school located in Randfontein.