Youth for Christ allowed Terry Hathaway the use of their building to store a collection of books for children who lost their home in the 2017 wildfires. Paige Mueller photo

Book drive for fire victims

Retired teacher inspired to help local families rebuild their home libraries

Terry Hathaway was helping young Josef Aschwanden discover a love of reading when his family home burned to the ground this summer, destroying all his favourite books.

“When I found out one of my tutoring students lost his home and everything, my heart just sunk,” Hathaway said Wednesday. “So I just started a book drive to collect books for families who have lost everything.”

When Hathaway, a retired teacher who is currently a literacy tutor, and her husband Jim returned after the evacuation they put a call out for donated books on Facebook. They asked for gently used children’s books in good condition and according to Hathaway, the response was amazing.

Her grandchildren, Will and Lauren Gauley were the first volunteers to donate books for other children in need. They even helped sort the various donations into categories so other kids would know where to look for their favourites.

According to Hathaway, there was an outpouring of support for the project from other people in the community too. She received hundreds of donated books. Sometimes, she would go pick the books up from people who had contacted her on Facebook. Sheila Crego, a friend of Hathaway’s, took particular interest in the project and would stop into the Share Shed every day looking for gently used books.

Hathaway notes that Crego was a “great assistant.” Because of her work as a librarian assistant, she knew exactly what type of stories kids would like to read and was a huge help in sorting the books.

Sometimes, people dropped donations off directly at Youth for Christ in downtown Williams Lake. The centre gave Terry a space to store the books and now, she said, “it’s organized and ready for families to come and pick out some books.”

The next step, as Hathaway sees it, is to provide as many families who lost their homes as possible with new reading material for their kids aged 0-18. Families are encouraged to contact Hathaway if they, or someone they know needs to start rebuilding their home library. She plans to set up appointments for each family at a time that is suitable for everyone.

“I really like the idea of having families coming on their own just for emotional reasons,” she said. “You know, they might find a book that they lost and it might bring back a lot of memories and emotions and [I want] them to be able to get through that together as a family.”

The first family to get the chance to start rebuilding their home library is the Aschwandens. Since Josef was the inspiration for the whole project, Hathaway thought it was only fitting he be the first to go through the donated books.

She hopes to have the books available to families until the end of November, in order to start bringing some Christmas blessings to families who could really use it. Donations of children’s books in good condition are still being accepted at Youth for Christ.

For anyone looking to set up an appointment or nominate a family in need, you can contact Terry Hathaway at 250-398-9180.

For video on the Wildfire Book Drive with the first recipient, view here.

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