Posted by MacKenzie Cook on Apr 09, 2018

Building Community: Rotary Book Donations Highlight Value of Service

TBM Rotarians distributed atlases to 5th-graders at the Howe Manning, Spofford Pond and Proctor Schools for the 20th year in December 2017.

The Rotary Club of Topsfield, Boxford and Middleton (TBM Rotary) recently visited local elementary schools to donate dictionaries, thesauruses and atlases.  Not only do the reference books open up worlds for students, but the project also highlights the value of community service.

At no cost to the schools or the students, TBM Rotary has been delivering dictionaries since 2004 to third-grade students.  The service organization has since added the donations of thesauruses to fourth-graders and atlases to fifth-graders.

Former Tri-Town School Union Superintendent Dr. Bernie Creeden has seen first-hand the benefits this program brings to the students.  He says the Rotarian motto of "service above self" is aimed at six avenues, of which literacy is one.  The success of the program is largely attributed to former Middleton Town Accountant Bob Murphy, whom, Creeden says, is "the champion of the project."

TBM Rotarians did more than just hand out books, though.

Creeden says, "Each visit is more than dropping off books.  We include a great presentation on the far reach that service can have, whether it be locally in our communities or regionally, nationally and even internationally."

Proctor School Principal Sarah O’Leary says, "The Rotarian message that is spread to the students is one that has been opening students’ perspectives on the power each person has to make the world a better place."

According to Creeden, one reason Rotarians such as Lisa Foley, Bob Was, Jen Kocur and himself continue this tradition is because these books are being implemented into the students' curriculum.  With each student in the district receiving a dictionary, thesaurus and atlas by the end of the fifth grade, he or she has learning tools for the rest of his or her life.  One place where students use these tools is a sixth-grade world geography course in which they explore the world using their atlases.

Once a teacher in the district, O’Leary says she has seen the success of the program in the classroom and from an administrator's view.

"Every year, students are excited about the books," she says.  "They are constantly flipping through and simply learning."

One aspect O'Leary speaks of is the impact of technology in education today.  Some students may not see these tools as valid given the internet’s reach and dominance in everyday life, she says.  So teachers and administrators in the district use the book donations to teach students the value of these hands-on resources.

"There's a time for both digital and physical copy; Students should know how to do both," O'Leary says.  "Tools such as Google will just give a student the answer.  Physical copies will give them the answer along with additional information that I have seen students become fascinated about."

The program has been a consistent winner for both TBM Rotary and local schools.

O'Leary has some simple words of gratitude.

"We are so thankful for what the Rotary does for our students," she says.

TBM Rotarians Bob Was and John Plate distribute thesauri to 4th-graders at the Spofford Pond School in Boxford.  More than 5,000 thesauri have been given to students in Boxford, Topsfield and Middleton in the past 20 years.

TBM Rotarians Jennifer Kocur (Institute for Savings), Lisa Foley (Commonwealth Land Trust), and Suzanne Malach (Danvers YMCA) presented dictionaries, thesauri and atlases to students at the Howe Manning School in January.  In the past 20 years, the Club has given out more than 15,000 books.

Students hold up dictionaries they received from TBM Rotary Club.  Club members recently distributed dictionaries to all 3rd-graders in Topsfield, Boxford and Middleton for the 20th consecutive year.

Student Emma Hobey says in this letter to TBM Rotary, “When I grow up, I might want to be in a Rotary Club because I love helping people all around the world!”

TBM Rotary received this colorful thank-you from Domenic.

This letter from student Jessey Greelish thanks TBM Rotary for donating dictionaries.

In this letter, Georgia thanks TBM Rotary for the dictionary and says it’s been fun to be able to look up words.

This thank-you letter came with a drawing of a dictionary and a sampling of words.