Students at the 19 schools in Jefferson Parish, La., are getting more than 50,000 new books and, best of all, those books are free. Last week, the Jefferson Federation of Teachers (an AFT affiliate), union and community volunteers began sorting the 2,000 boxes of books. About 25,000 books have been distributed and the rest will be passed out during the month.
The book distribution is part of a nationwide joint project between AFT and First Book, a nonprofit organization that distributes books to children from low-income families. First Book has distributed more than 90 million books to children across the country over the past 20 years. In recent months, AFT affiliates have joined with First Book to give away more than a quarter of a million books.
Jefferson Federation of Teachers (JFT) provided the transportation to bring the books from a warehouse in New Orleans to Metairie, with a combination of rental trucks, members' pickups and SUVs. JFT President Meladie Munch said:
We are thrilled to be able to provide our students the opportunity to build at home libraries and also to work together to send the message that reading is important both in school and out of school.
The Greater New Orleans AFL-CIO (GNO), Building and Construction Trades Council of South East Louisiana, Dawn Busters Kiwanis Club and Bavarian Wealth Management Inc. are co-sponsoring the book distribution program. Greater New Orleans AFL-CIO President Robert "Tiger" Hammond said the GNO is providing both financial support and volunteers for the program because:
We have always assisted working families in every capacity. Whether it’s working for good wages and benefits or doing what we can to help our students, we are always willing to help.
Pitching in to sort the books were members of sponsoring groups, plus the Electrical Workers (IBEW), Elevator Constructors (IUEC), Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association (MEBA), Plumbers and Pipe Fitters (UA), United Steelworkers (USW) and United Way.