Quest: Can We Help a Community Organization?

Last semester, I was lucky enough to work with a talented and driven group of young women on a Quest called So You Want to Learn Guitar? When it came time to start preparing for my next Quest, I had no idea how I would top such a fun, challenging, and rewarding semester. Offer another creative option? Try something completely new? Join another Quest and learn about something I’d never experienced before?

I was brainstorming, but found myself distracted. As the weather warms up, my mind always drifts to Books on Bikes. Since 2012, Books on Bikes has been biking around the city providing quality literature to children in the Charlottesville area when their school libraries are closed.  Weekly deliveries of stories and popsicles keep students engaged in and excited about reading over the summer, help to build a strong connection in the Charlottesville community, and bring so much joy and fulfillment to my summer. I kept fighting back thoughts of bike helmets and smiling, barefoot kiddos when I realized – why not create a Quest centered around Books on Bikes?

At our Quest showcase pitch, I shared my favorite Books on Bikes video, which brings viewers along on a summer ride and lets them see, firsthand, what makes Books on Bikes so great.

BOB Video R1 from Kevin Cwalina on Vimeo.

I told students the truth – running Books on Bikes is a lot of hard work. It is run completely by full-time teachers and librarians in the Charlottesville area, and we don’t always enough have time during the school year to dedicate to getting things ready for the summer. As Books on Bikes grows (both within Charlottesville and around the US with many chapters opening in different states), we need even more helpful hands to keep it running. And then I asked them my essential Quest question: How can we help a local community organization? Young people often feel like they can’t make a difference in their community, but I wanted to show them just how powerful their time and dedication could be. I announced that I was looking for a dedicated team to help Books on Bikes with jobs that many not-for-profit organizations have volunteers or employees to run, including fundraising, advertising, marketing, reaching out to local businesses and communities. Plus the less glamorous behind-the-scenes jobs like cleaning and weeding donation piles, organizing books to be given away for the summer season, cleaning and organizing the storage space, and prepping the bikes for our first ride in June.

IMG_4733Mrs. Stevens and I were lucky enough to work this semester with a wonderful team of 5 generous and meticulous girls who are passionate about reading and volunteering. They dedicated their time and energy both during and outside of school to brainstorm and share new ideas and creative solutions to help strengthen the Books on Bikes program. Throughout the semester we took field trips to local elementary schools to meet and share stories with the children that inspired Books on Bikes, and to visit Clark Elementary, the storage space for our bikes and book donations. After meeting with the Books on Bikes team to pitch possible plans for the semester, the girls decided to focus on three main areas – fundraising, spreading the word about Books on Bikes and their mission, and preparing materials for the 2017 summer season. Check out the video above to see more of our wonderful semester working with Books on Bikes.

I loved getting to know our team over the course of our meetings, and seeing the unique strengths that each member brought to the table. My favorite moments of this semester came from the girls’ ability to communicate openly and respectfully about ideas and hopes. When listening to each other’s ideas, each team member responded with support and encouragement. We were able to accomplish a remarkable amount because everyone was dedicated to Books on Bikes, and put in 100% both in and outside of Quest meeting times. It warmed my heart to see such dedication, generosity, and kindness from the girls as they explored Books on Bikes’ mission and the ways that the organization works with children in the Charlottesville area. I am incredibly proud not only of what they accomplished by working together, but of their warm and altruistic spirits. You are sure to see great things from this team in the future!

wz_c3vwzBooks on Bikes is a community outreach and literacy program, created by Charlottesvill​e City School librarians and teachers, to bring books to children in Charlottesvill​e, VA. We hope to not only bring books and a love of reading to the children of Charlottesvill​e, but also develop a relationship between Charlottesvill​e residents and the local school community. Learn more about Books on Bikes here. 

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