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Help a Public School Without Spending Any Money

Updated on August 5, 2012
Hooray we did it! Chrissy and I standing before the books we collected for one underfunded elementary school.
Hooray we did it! Chrissy and I standing before the books we collected for one underfunded elementary school.

Conduct a Book Drive for a Local School!

It might seem like the last thing a school would ever need but believe it or not, many schools lack an adequate supply of literature. While wealthy schools enjoy the new editions the moment they hit the Scholastic book stand, the worst schools in America have textbooks outdated by centuries

Not all public schools are funded the same thanks to private donations and policies like, No Child Left Behind.

Two summers ago I learned through an admired professor that a school thirty minutes from my house had a library, near barren of books. That night, I solicited the help of my best friend Chrissy, " I have this idea for a summer book drive..." I barley got the words out of my mouth before she'd already agreed. Our enthusiasm couldn't be curbed, in only one month we collected over 1,300 books.

Our book drive gave life to a San Diego Elementary library while costing us practically nothing. We all have spare books lying around the house, cluttering our drawers and cabinets. Clearing them out will breath air into old, cramped spaces, cost you zero dollars, and following these guidelines, can be a valuable donation.

How to Pick a School

Naturally, most people only donate to their own school district; this is where they went to school or where their kids go to school now and so they want to support it. This is how schools in poor areas get left behind in terms of funding, when the majority of the student body is on subsidized lunches the parents obviously can't afford to donate to the school- even if they want to. If you live in an middle to upper class area, your school could use a donation but other schools need it even more. Maybe donate 50/50, half to your local school and half to the school in the "bad part of town."

Do some research, find low-ranking schools with a high percentage of subsidized lunches. This is all public information, seek-able through a simple Google search of the campus name or district. These kids are not low-ranking because they are less-smart, it's structural reasons holding them down and giving these schools a donation is the first step to fixing the institutional inequality that keeps rich schools performing higher and poor schools scrapping the barrel.

Start contacting schools, asking them what it is they can use. Emails and contact numbers will be listed on the schools website. Or just pop in the office during campus hours and ask to talk to someone in charge of community relations.

Getting Started!

While Chrissy and I found a lot of books in our own houses- way more than we ever expected to find- we couldn’t have collected so many without the kind help of others.

Realizing this from the get-go we began creating flyers to post around town. We taped these flyers to mail boxes and emailed them out to close friends and family, giving a four week period for their donation to be dropped off. This turned out to be a good time frame, long enough for people to collect books while not being too much time, so that they put it off and forgot.

Our Flyer


We are taking donations of new and used K-5 reading level books!

If you have old books cluttering your house, now is your chance to put them to good use!

We are two Cal State San Marcos students with a goal to help Rosa Parks Elementary, an underprivileged school in The San Diego School District. With the generosity of our strong community we know it is possible to collect at least 1,000 books for the school’s barren library.

June 24- July 24 a box will be located at (my home address here) and (chrissy’s home address). Please place all donations inside. For a chance to win a gift basket, include your contact information!

Thank You So Much,

Christine Vargo & Becky Bruce

Make Donation Boxes

While we delivered the majority of books in plain brown boxes, we didn't want to set such an eye-sore out at a place of business. So we got creative and created pretty donation boxes to place at the car dealership and dentist office.

What you will need:

Plain cardboard box

At least one full roll of wrapping paper


Scissors/ box cutter

1. Take one regular cardboard box and tape all edges closed.

2. Next, use a box cutter or other sharp object to cut out a hole on top of box. Make sure it is large enough for books to fit through! The bigger the better, you'll thank yourself later when emptying the box.

3. Wrap the box in paper

4. Cut out wrapping paper where the box hole is on top. Tape the paper edges back under the box. This keeps it looking neat and will also keep the paper from peeling back.

Among the most memorable things donated...

Somewhere in the sorting process we found a donated book called, "When Mormons Call." A step-by-step guide to avoiding the Mormons that solicit door-to-door. Not written in very tolerant terms, we obviously had to donate this literature elsewhere.

Broaden Your Reach, Look to Local Buisnesses

Our next step was to approach a few local businesses, ask them if we could keep a donation box at their shop. A dentist and car dealership both gladly agreed, which ultimately benefited the book drive tremendously.

I was skeptical at first, thinking people don't just come to the dentist or car dealership with old books under their arm, and I doubted they'd remember or find to time to drive books back. Therefore, the first time Chrissy and I ventured to do a pick up at the dentist office we were shocked. We couldn't even budge the drop-off box- we actually had to carry books out by hand. While some costumers did return to drop by books, the staff contributed the most. It was a great way to get another team on board, watching the collection grow each day- the employees became just as excited about collecting the books as we did!

Sorting Process

Once you’re nearing the end of your drive it’s time to take inventory, see what you were able to collect. Chrissy and I were counting our stacks from the get-go, all too excited at how dense our collection quickly became. Yet in the very end, days before drop off at the elementary school- we spread the books out on the floor of my garage- ready to start the sorting process. The sight of so many books was truly magical but we couldn't focus on numbers alone, we also had to kick out the bad books and organize the good.

The innards of many book covers were scribbled with names and sentiments, Happy 10th Birthday Sean! Some people donated nearly their entire childhood collections, we saw the Happy Birthdays Love Grandma and Grandpa from multiple birthdays! No matter how sweet, we had to white-out everything, otherwise we knew the librarians would be stuck doing it. Chrissy and I made a date of it, chatting and giggling as we stroked over hard-to-read cursive with thick white paste.

Now is also the time to get rid of the “lemons,” or irrelevant, old, or inappropriate books. Although time consuming, it saved us the embarrassment of donating some pretty wacky books we still have a good laugh about.

Chrissy and I donated to an elementary school, lucky for us the majority of our books listed reading levels, which allowed for easy classification and sorting. We decided to sort the books into boxes that listed the different grade levels in Sharpie.

Unloading books with the lovely Librarian!
Unloading books with the lovely Librarian!

Delivery Date

We wanted to make sure the books were on the shelves before the kids returned from summer vacation, so we delivered in early August. Since no one outside of staff was on campus, we drove two cars packed with books right through the school, parking in front of the library. From here, the custodian came with a dolly and helped us ladies unload the boxes. A lucky surprise for us, just as we realized we'd packed the boxes a little too heavy.

For such a small effort on our part, the payoff was tremendous! Just think, you could do the same for a school near you.


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    • KimberleyMarshall profile image


      6 years ago from Detroit, MI

      That's such an awesome thing to do! It makes me so excited to see that there are people out there who are looking at the whole picture instead of their little corner. Being from Detroit, it's not a mystery that some schools do not have adaquet supplies; So this just warms my heart! Thanks for supporting the schools!! :)

    • Becky Bruce profile imageAUTHOR

      Becky Bruce 

      6 years ago from San Diego, CA

      Nice to see you on my updates again Letitia! I want to head over and check out your beautiful photography after this... Thanks for the nice comments and votes :) By the way- I was reading a hub the other day about hub pagers that have met each other and I saw your picture on there! I was like "I know her!!!" To my boyfriend.. haha just thought I'd share.

    • LetitiaFT profile image


      6 years ago from Paris via California

      I'm so full of admiration for what you and Chrissy have done. Those boxes were as heavy with brotherly (or should I say sisterly) love as they were with books and I hope sharing your experience here inspires many a similar enterprise. Voted up, up and away.

    • Becky Bruce profile imageAUTHOR

      Becky Bruce 

      6 years ago from San Diego, CA

      Josh- thanks! Hopefully this will inspire you to do something similar for a school- or anyone/anything- in need :)

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 

      6 years ago from Pennsylvania


      Awesome story! I love hearing inspirational stories like these of people reaching out to thje community. This was very uplifitng and put a smile on my face! Thanks Becky!


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