When Laura Cox surveyed 52 local elementary schools to ask if they'd like to participate in a holiday book drive for their students, she didn't anticipate getting involved in a $35,000 fundraising project. Cox, a member of the Community Action Council of Tulane University Students (CACTUS), a community service group, decided she'd like to revamp a defunct Book Giving Tree project conducted on a smaller scale by Tulane students in years past. As project coordinator, she sent packets to local schools asking teachers if they'd like to participate in the program and if so, what books their young students would like to receive as holiday gifts. Cox got responses from 24 schools " a total of more than 4,000 book requests.
In order to buy a book for each child who requested one, CACTUS is seeking help from the local community. The group is collecting monetary donations through Nov. 30 and new book donations through Dec. 3. Most books requested cost about $8, so anyone who wishes to donate may sponsor as many students as they like by either purchasing books themselves or sending a check directly to CACTUS. Local bookstores and libraries have donated new books, Tulane's provost has agreed to provide funds, and fraternities, sororities, churches and other large groups also have agreed to fill requests for entire classrooms. There are still lots of books to be purchased, however.
Some of the most popular requests include The Very Hungry Caterpillar; Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?; Where the Wild Things Are and The Polar Express.
After all of the books are collected, student volunteers on Tulane's campus will form a mass assembly line to wrap, label and deliver the gifts to elementary schools before students are excused for the holidays. In addition to giving the gift of knowledge, Cox believes the project also will connect college students with those outside of the university setting.
'This is a good opportunity to invest in building a stronger relationship between the university and the students and the children and their parents," Cox says. 'The books will reach thousands of homes. I think that shows that we're here and we're interested in maintaining a relationship with the community."