As a growing and thriving organization now in its fifth year, Book Harvest has counted on the advice of Executive Service Corps of the Triangle (ESC) from the start – and that has helped the organization succeed in its mission of putting books into the hands of low-income children in Durham and across the area.
In the latest chapter, Michele Lynn, board chair of Book Harvest, took part in an ESC program on board leadership basics, financed by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation. The six seminars provided training on board operations, development and financing, roadmaps for the future, recruitment and other aspects of leadership in nonprofit organizations.
“These were really useful sessions,” Lynn said, for the information they provided and also for the interaction with the other nonprofits that took part. The participants shared ideas, discussed common problems and found the interaction a valuable part of the program.
The seminars continued a long relationship with ESC. “They’ve been our partner from the beginning in guiding our nonprofit,” she said. “We’ve always had this incredible resource in our corner.”
Book Harvest was founded in 2011 by Ginger Young, now executive director. It began in the garage and basement of her home, where the first crop of donated books for low-income children was stored for distribution through schools, community centers and social agencies. The initial meetings with ESC to plan a first board retreat and a financial assessment were held in Ginger’s kitchen.
Ginger’s vision was to provide low-income children with ready access to plenty of books. Initially, Book Harvest served as a community book bank of donated books, providing the books to partner organizations to share with the children and families they served. From that beginning, Book Harvest has diversified its program, placing 350,000 donated books in the hands and homes of local children to date.
Book Harvest’s programs include: Book Babies, which helps pre-school children build home libraries starting at birth; Books on Break, which equips children with 10 books every summer to combat summer learning loss; and the Community Book Bank, which provides books to low-income children in a variety of settings. Book Harvest works with more than 40 complementary organizations – schools, libraries, health clinics, social service agencies and community centers.
Since that basement beginning, Book Harvest has moved twice to accommodate its growth. Its current headquarters is on University Drive in Durham. It now has a staff of five. Its 2016 annual budget is $550,000, which includes funds raised from individual, foundation and corporate contributions. “We’ve had to change and grow and evolve,” Lynn said, and ESC’s consulting help has been an important part of that process.
The mission of books for children who need them is simple, and Lynn says that establishing a nonprofit to pursue this mission has been made simpler because of the support of ESC, an important ally in helping Book Harvest grow and thrive.
“We are deeply committed to ensuring that all our children have plenty of books during their first 10 years of life and, thus, a running start on academic and life success,” Lynn said. “When the income-based book gap is finally closed, our work will be done.”