Originally published in The Weekly Packet, May 23, 2019
BHCS students send boxes of books to Harlem
BHCS students with boxes of books bound for Harlem for an outreach project between students at BHCS and students in Harlem in New York City.
This spring Blue Hill Consolidated School librarian Tracy Gandy and Blue Hill Heritage Trust Development Director Chrissy Allen teamed up on an educational and community spirited outreach project between students at BHCS and students in Harlem in New York City.
In keeping with the school’s philosophy, BHCS decided to share their love of reading with kids living in very different circumstances through a nonprofit organization in NYC called Harlem Grown, which was introduced to them by Blue Hill Heritage Trust. According to a news release from BHCS, Harlem Grown is a nonprofit working to break the cycle of poverty by providing public green spaces for families to play in, organically grown vegetables for community members to take free of charge, and working in schools to provide nutrition and environmental education free of charge. In addition to these programs, Harlem Grown wanted to install “Little Libraries” at their garden locations so that the children of Harlem also have a free place to access books outside of school, especially for the thousands of children who are living in shelters and do not have regular access to books, food, or even a safe place to play.
Allen worked with Gandy and led a program where BHCS students were educated on what life is like for a kid in Harlem, and the challenges they face. The discussion included the importance of access to nature, good food, and the power of books and reading and how critical it is to have access to all of these things regardless of socioeconomic status. The students at BHCS decided they wanted to help and jump start the library at Harlem Grown, so in honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday the school held a book donation. Over 2,500 books were donated, as well as Maine and literature themed bookmarks to go with the books, made by the students themselves. To top it all off, they also started a pen pal program with school kids in Harlem.
Shipping the books to Harlem came with a hefty price tag, so BHCS 4th grade teacher Sharon Longley rented a van and drove the books to Harlem over school vacation. Local businesses including BHD Containers, First National Bank of Blue Hill and Darlings chipped in to help her with expenses, as well as the BHCS Boosters.
“It’s always exciting to see our whole student body work together on a community service project, especially when other local entities like BHHT are involved. Our students were eager to learn more about living in Harlem as well as how they could help make this happen for kids like them,” said BHCS Principal Shelly Schildroth.