National Honor Society members read to young students and gave each a care packages of books. (Click to enlarge.)

Members of the National Honor Society at Red Bank Regional High School recently completed a drive to provide Read Across America care packages to students at Red Bank borough preschools.

The project was “amazing,” said TJ Eyerman, a senior who serves as NHS president. But it also underscored the needs of the Rumson-based Bridge of Books Foundation, he said.

TJ Eyerman reading to young students.  (Click to enlarge.)

The RBR students visited Red Bank Borough Public Preschool at the United Methodist Church, and delivered packages to the preschools at the Red Bank Primary School, First Baptist Church, Acerlo Head Start, YMCA, and Monmouth Day Care Center, Eyerman said.

The care packages consisted of two books (one new and one used, both supplied by the Bridge of Books foundation) as well as other goodies to inspire kids to read, Eyerman said.

“We were able to personally deliver these packages and read to the kids, of which was incredibly rewarding,” he said.

“The Bridge of Books Foundation and the Red Bank Preschool were so amazing in facilitating this event, and I can not thank them enough,” he said. “We believe that every child should have books to call their own, and they assisted us in getting one step closer to that goal. It was so amazing to physically go in to the preschool and interact with the students we were helping, as seeing their faces as we gave them books is something I’ll never forget. Developing a lifelong love of reading is so important and impactful on a students life, and I am very glad we were able to have a small part in this.”

Now, the NHS is calling attention to the needs of the Bridge of Books Foundation, which has struggled to maintain itself through the pandemic.

In particular, the charity is finding it difficult to find a location to work from, Eyerman said.

Eyerman shared the following information about the foundation:

Bridge of Books has distributed nearly 1.3 million books to underserved children across all of New Jersey’s 21 counties. Our core mission remains the same – to provide an ongoing source of books to underserved children throughout New Jersey in order to support the development of literacy skills and encourage a love of reading.

Ongoing access to books is critical to establishing reading skills and paving the way to success in school and beyond. And given the wide-ranging needs of underserved children during the pandemic, our mission is more critical than ever. Established in 2003 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit, we remain a volunteer-led organization to this day.
We lost our home donated by Vonage for the last five years because of COVID. Despite this major setback, we are still working hard to provide books to underserved children throughout New Jersey, making an impact in big and small ways on a daily basis: a young family in Highlands that had only ONE book in their home received 12 books to jumpstart their home library so they too can work on reading skills. Thousands of displaced Afghan families living at Ft. Dix now have almost 9,000 books to enjoy and improve language skills, thanks to a joint effort with two other New Jersey non-profits distributing books to over 2000 students in three counties, including a school in Asbury Park, to celebrate Read Across America providing books for children attending a community vaccine clinic in Red Bank These are just four stories of children who now have books because of Bridge of Books.  All from three 10×10 storage units in Atlantic Highlands and Red Bank.
Neither the collection nor the distribution of books to kids who need them have been an issue. People understand the importance of our mission and gladly donate their books. As of March 2022, we have 22 outstanding requests for books for underserved children across New Jersey. Bridge of Books is at a crossroads. In order to continue our mission, operational change is needed.
First and foremost, we are seeking to develop ongoing community partnerships to build a sustainable infrastructure around our mission. Rented space is a priority. We cannot operate effectively without space to accept donations and prepare the books for distribution. Hiring an executive director is also integral to the sustained growth of our mission. The direct impact of the pandemic on all aspects of Bridge of Books underscores that the time has come for the volunteer-led model of the past 20 years to evolve into a sustainable business.
For all the lives we have touched, we know that there are countless children across New Jersey who still need access to the books we provide. Bridge of Books needs to exist for these children. And in order to write the next chapter, we need to both hire an executive director and rent a new home base for our operations. Bridge of Books can evolve into a stronger organization and get even more books into the hands of kids who need them across New Jersey.
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