Lexington’s Finest Non-Profit Book Provider Opens New Chapter
Lexington, Ky. – April 23, 2018 – “How many of you that are here remember the old warehouse?” asked International Book Project board member Dan Sprague during a speech to kick off the celebration of IBP’s grand re-opening. A crowd of Returned Peace Corps volunteers, Lexington families and International Book Project staff laughed in response. “So now you know why we’re smiling so broadly,” Sprague continued, gesturing to the new warehouse. “It used to be, you’d have to leave your jackets on in the winter or swelter in the heat and dodge furry animals. It was not a pretty sight.”
On Saturday, March 24, one of Lexington’s oldest non-profit organizations opened their doors to a new chapter. Flanked by a new warehouse space and a re-organized bookstore, the International Book Project welcomed visitors to Delaware Avenue with a Green Eggs and Ham breakfast provided by Doodle’s Breakfast and Lunch, and ice cream from Sav’s Chill.
Despite the snowy weather, a steady crowd flowed through the doors as children participated in a coloring contest and listened to readings of Dr. Seuss books. Tables set up by KET and Be Kind Be Bold offered t-shirts and other memorabilia, including information about their own organizations. Visitors munched on green eggs and ham and dipped into ice cream while they strolled through the bookstore and were given tours of the new warehouse.
Display tables with traditional crafts, clothing and musical instruments from the Philippines, Ghana and Ecuador offered a colorful insight into the cultures of some of IBP’s partners. Guests were invited to try their hand at playing the Djembe – a drum from Ghana, and a Filipino pan flute.
During the afternoon, to show support for the opening day and highlight the school’s relationship with IBP, students from Sayre High school and a group of Retired Peace Corps Volunteers stopped by to help pack books with other volunteers. The boxes packed during that time will be part of shipments sent to various countries such as the Jamaica, Iraq, Kosovo, Malawi and Ghana.
Clipped to boards lining a wall of the bookstore, visitors got the chance to read letters written by students involved in our Books as Bridges program. Since its 2007 launch, BAB has been promoting literacy, community and friendship by allowing Kentucky students to exchange letters with other kids all over the world. During the 2017-2018 school year alone, over one-thousand and five hundred students in six Kentucky counties have been connected to classrooms overseas. Students involved in the program get the unique chance to learn first-hand about other cultures while also building global friendships.
“With this renovation, our goal is to ship five-hundred thousand books a year,” said International Book Project Board President Angine Wilson. “And with this new beautiful building, I think we can do that.”
In the 52 years since International Book Project began, the organization has shipped 6.8 million books to more than 140 countries around the world. Locally, IBP works with Habitat for Humanity, KY Refugees Ministries, LFUCG Family Care Centers, Starting Gate after-school literacy program, the VA Hospital and the Lexington Sheriff’s Office to provide books for those in need right here in the community.
“As the National Peace Corps Association, our mission is to champion lifelong commitment to serving others, and undoubtedly that is what is happening here,” said President of the National Peace Corps Association Glenn Blumhorst. “The opportunity to learn about these other countries where these books are going is what we call the third goal of the Peace Corps: to bring the world home and create a better understanding of those countries where we served.”
The International Book Project’s relationship with the National Peace Corps Association stretches back to the early 1970’s. Since 2014 alone, IBP has shipped over 47,000 books to Peace Corps volunteers in countries like Armenia, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Jamaica and Malawi. Whether the shipments are small, pallets or sea containers, every year the International Book Project ships books to schools, libraries, churches, NGOs and PCVs in more than 60 countries.
Standing in as a representative of Mayor Jim Gray and to conclude the speeches of the afternoon, vice Mayor Steve Kay read a statement from the mayor’s office:
“I, Jim Gray, mayor of Lexington, in celebration of the re-opening of the International Book Project offices and warehouse, and of the thousands of books the International Book Project sends throughout the world to promote literacy, do hereby declare March 24, 2018 International Book Project Day in Lexington.”
Glenn Blumhorst, along with International Book Project board members, Vice Mayor Kay, Councilman Bill Farmer, Dabney Parker (Kentucky Refugee Ministries), Sarah Hendricks (Habitat for Humanity), Elisabeth Jensen (Starting Gate and Race for Education), Scooter Stein (Lexington Sheriff’s Office Books and Badges Program) and donor Fred Robey cut an IBP-blue ribbon while the crowd of visitors applauded.
Through donations and bookstore sales, nearly one-thousand dollars was raised to help support International Book Project programs and operations. Over 20 volunteers showed up to help pack shipments, and 10 more visitors expressed interest in coming back to volunteer with the organization regularly.
“Lexington really does work well together and as a community is committed to service. One person who had a great idea, who enlisted other people, persevered until today – where we stand in this wonderful building that was designed by local folks, built by local folks,” said Vice Mayor Kay. “This is what we do. This project is the best of Lexington.”