The Saratoga Sun -

County-wide effort helps ship books for tornado victims


Courtesy of Saratoga Elementary School

United Parcel Service drivers Mark Fanning, above, and Kurt Peterssen, below, helped raise $400 to ship books to Moore, Okla.

After Saratoga Elementary School students donated 188 pounds of books for Moore, Okla. tornado victims, the lack of money to mail them had been a lingering problem until a few weeks ago.

Barb McArthur, who was working as a Saratoga Elementary library aide during the spring, said she came up with the idea for the book drive while cleaning her kids' bookshelves, near the time of the 2013 Moore Tornado's strike on May 20.

"It was like a week after the tornado happened, and I happened to be cleaning off my kids' bookshelves at our house," she said. "I said 'You guys have so many books and you don't read half of these, so I don't know what we're going to do with them.' That's when the idea hit me, since there are tons of children in Oklahoma who don't even have a bookshelf to put their book on. That was kind of where it started, and I thought 'What if we collected your books and started something at the school?'"

From an entire-school effort, the donated books piled up over the spring and quickly filled six large boxes. McArthur said she was pleased to see such eagerness from the students when contributing books from home.

"I was excited to see what response we got from the kids, and they were so excited to bring their books in and so good about bringing them in," she said. "We even had one little boy who donated $10 to help get the books shipped there, which I thought was pretty cute."

However, after all the student enthusiasm, actually getting the books to Oklahoma became a much bigger roadblock than McArthur expected.

"Once I came up with the idea to do it, I ran into so many dead ends," she said. "I found that Red Cross only takes money donations and when I got a hold of the Salvation Army in Laramie, I found that I could get them to Laramie but they wouldn't ship them any further. I also tried FedEx because I know they have a program to help with relief work, and when I printed out the 15-page document to see if I qualified for 'X, Y and Z' I thought, 'forget it.' I didn't know how I was get them there, I had no clue."

McArthur put the shipping issue on the back burner over the summer and gave it time until the fall. She said Tim Lamprecht, of Valley Foods, offered to have the store pay half of the shipping cost, and the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) at Saratoga Elementary volunteered to pitch in for the other half.

"At first we were going to be looking at $380, to get everything shipped there," McArthur said.

Still exploring options, McArthur then contacted UPS to ask if there were any special discounts or options for such a large donation. She was put in contact with the UPS Southeastern Wyoming office, which put her in touch with UPS Morning Supervisor Andrea Shepard in Rawlins, who also owns ERA Shepard and Associates Realty.

Courtesy of Saratoga Elementary School

Shepard and other Rawlins UPS staff members managed to pull together more than $400, which covered the entire shipping cost.

"I got a hold of Andrea Shepard from ERA Realty in Rawlins, and through the UPS helping us and Andrea Shepard, we didn't pay anything," McArthur said. "It was all done through donation."

Near the end of November, the donated books finally started the trip southward to Oklahoma. When thinking about the tornado victims, McArthur said figuring out the shipping issue was well-worth the effort.

"If the Oklahoma kids, when they get those books, are excited as the kids were here in Saratoga to donate them, it was totally worth it," she said. "For me personally, it was also a great teaching tool for my three kids to give back and think past themselves."


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