"I would like to know if you could bless me with some books. I don't have money. I have two children to support and I lost everything because of my trial. I have 18 months left to get out and I want to make the most of my time." —M., a mother incarcerated in Alabama
Mailing books to prisoners like M. costs us around $4.50 per package, so we're grateful to local music venue The Black Cat for hosting a fundraiser for us! The fundraiser will be a punk rock karaoke night, and it will take place at 8pm on Saturday, August 5, 2023. Tickets will cost $10 in advance or $15 at the door. The Black Cat is located at 1811 14th Street NW in Washington DC. If you enjoy punk rock karaoke, please join us! (If you aren't into punk rock karaoke but have friends who are, you can share the flyer for the event with your friends.)
Our volunteers have been working hard to keep up with the demand for book packages. Most weeks this year, volunteers have been in our workspace four days a week, diligently answering requests for everything from comic books to dictionaries. If work continues at the same pace, we'll finish the year having sent approximately 8,000 packages.
Our wonderful supporters, including many of you receiving this newsletter, have played an indispensable role by donating both books and money. In April, many of you responded to the call to celebrate Independent Bookstore Day by collectively donating 112 books from our Politics and Prose wish list. Donations were matched by a foundation, doubling the impact of each donation. Then, in July, generous individuals collectively donated $3,200 to offset the postage rate increase that went into effect on July 9. We thank you for your support!
We have resumed holding regular training sessions for new volunteers, and some of the new volunteers have already achieved great things for us. For example, one of them contacted local comic book stores asking them to donate their Free Comic Book Day leftovers, resulting in a large donation.
Although we focus on serving individual prisoners, we continue to maintain a list of prison libraries and educational programs that seek book donations, and have made three additions to the list this year. If you wish to support any of the programs on the list, contact firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send the list your way.
We welcome book donations, and send as many donated books as we can to prisoners. However, some donated books cannot be sent to prisoners, for a variety of reasons. As an example, some art books and even some dictionaries are banned in prisons because they contain illustrations of the naked human form. Other books would be rejected by prisons because of tiny stains or spots of water damage. Some books are in genres that simply aren't requested by prisoners. As much as possible, we avoid wasting these books.
Books that are in sellable condition are often sent to Better World Books or Second Story Books, which give us credit that we can use to obtain books we need. Others are donated to Turning the Page. Many are placed in Little Free Libraries around the city.
Occasionally, we are able to donate books directly to readers in need. One night, a volunteer leaving our workspace with a box of books for Little Free Libraries encountered an unhoused person who asked whether she could have some of the books to read. Naturally, our volunteer allowed her to take what she wanted. Another time, two boxes of books that couldn't be sent to prisoners were donated to a respite center for people who had fled their homes.
Although we are happy to share books with other organizations and individuals that can use them, a lot of labor goes into sorting, packing, and transporting these books, and this takes us from our primary purpose of sending books to prisoners. We therefore request that book donors read our guidance on book donations and donate only books that we will be able to send to prisoners. We accept book donations on Wednesdays 6-8pm in our room in the basement of Foundry United Methodist Church. (Please bring only two bags or boxes at a time. For larger donations, contact email@example.com.)
"I give you thanks for the good labor you're doing sending books to we who are prisoners... I received what you sent me which I liked. I spent time reading instead of having bad thoughts." —S., Texas
"I appreciate all your hard work to promote literacy and the love of reading. Reading is at times the only bright spots in my day. I've been especially glad to read more black/brown and woman authors recently, as well as foreign authors." —Jason, Kentucky
"Dear Friends, Thank you so dearly for the kindness & caring which honestly is such a blessing, by providing literature for me (and others) has granted me the possibility of being much more educated, a feat I heretofore thought to remain a vain undertaking. I've come a long way, thanks to you!" —Cory, North Carolina
"Thank you guys for everything you do. The sheer joy of receiving a package from you guys is the closest thing we get to unwrapping a present behind bars. These books do not come here to just die. They are passed around and enjoyed by so many others before they are eventually donated to the unit library. Thank you so much for giving a damn about our sanity. I can't tell you how much it is appreciated." —Ronald, Texas
"It is a blessing to me that goes beyond words! What you are doing for those of us who are incarcerated means so much. It is easy to feel forgotten when behind these walls... To have such kindness shown from a stranger shows how bright each of you... shines." —Lindsey, Alabama
We would like to thank everyone who supports our work. A hazard in having a thank-you section in a newsletter is that it will, inevitably, omit countless names that should be included. So, instead of even attempting to list everyone we are thankful to, we are going to highlight just a handful of donors who are representative of our many supporters.
We thank the Friends of the Library groups that donate books to us, including the Friends groups in Cleveland Park, Mount Pleasant, Georgetown, Arlington, Centreville, and Great Falls.
We thank the authors who support us, and especially thank Brandon and Emily Sanderson and their Lightweaver Foundation for donating 13 boxes of Brandon Sanderson's popular fantasy books.
We thank the houses of worship that support us. We especially thank St. John's Norwood, which not only collects books for us but also made a very generous donation to cover the cost of mailing the books to prisoners.
We thank the businesses that support us, including Charles Aris.
Above all, we thank Foundry United Methodist Church for hosting us. Our room in Foundry's basement is the heart of our work. It is where we store almost all of our books and prepare around 160 book packages each week. Without Foundry, we could not serve nearly as many incarcerated people.
Please consider making a donation to fund our work.
We welcome donations by check or PayPal. Our PayPal Giving Fund page allows people with PayPal accounts to donate to us without PayPal charging any fees. If you would like to make a recurring, monthly donation or do not have a PayPal account, please visit our regular PayPal page (which allows donations using debit or credit cards).
Checks should be made payable to "DC Books to Prisons" and sent to us at:
DC Books to Prisons - Donations
PO Box 34190
Washington, DC 20043
If you prefer to donate books, you can order them from our Politics and Prose wish list or Amazon wish list. If you are in Washington DC and wish to donate used books, please see our list of needed genres.
Whatever form your support takes, we thank you for caring about getting books into the hands of readers behind bars.
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