Book sorting pic #1: (left to right) Madalyn VanLandeghem (Rotary Interact President), Marty Barta, Arissa Presley and Lauren Brokaw. Photo provided

Flushing HS Interact Students during book sorting: (left to right) Madalyn VanLandeghem (Rotary Interact President), Marty Barta (Rotary Club president), Arissa Presley and Lauren Brokaw. 

The Rotary Club of Flushing recently collaborated with the Flushing High School Interact Club to set up a new book distribution center for the Rotary Area 7 Literacy Project.

Interact Club students under the direction of Rotary Club of Flushing President Marty Barta sorted through pallets of books at Future Engineering Inc. in Flushing, which is owned by Rotary Club of Flushing member Matt Catlin. Interact Club members then organized the books and arranged them on shelves, completing the project in two days (approximately five hours total). All the while, the students stayed masked up and maintained a six-foot of social distance as much as possible.

Catlin will be providing storage for the books at his company so that they can be distributed to eligible students in the area. Local Rotary clubs participating in the Area 7 Literacy Project include the Rotary Club of Flushing, the Rotary Club of Fenton, the Rotary Club of Grand Blanc, the Rotary Club of Flint, the Rotary Club of Greater Flint Sunrise, and the Genesee Valley Rotary Club.

The Area 7 Literacy Project started in 2014 with a primary focus to distribute books to kids from birth through age five. Books were given to Reach Out and Read at the Hurley Pediatric Clinic and distributed by the Salvation Army at the downtown Citadel and Beecher Corps.

After the Flint Water Crisis, Reach Out and Read secured other sources of book funding, and the Salvation Army requested that the Rotary Clubs distribute all materials through the Beecher Corps. Through 2019, 22,500 books had been distributed.

In 2020, the Area 7 Literacy Project was expanded beyond the Beecher district and adjusted its focus to include a K-6th grade reading level. This change allowed books to circulate to school districts in the Area 7 Literacy Project network rather than just the Beecher area.

While the project continues to provide 1,000 books annually to Beecher Salvation Army, it has also expanded to include the distribution of an additional 4,000 books annually by the six participating Rotary clubs. Five of the clubs will handle distribution through the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan Backpack Program, and the Rotary Club of Flushing will partner with the Bread for Life Backpack Program for distribution.

Books will be distributed four to five times a year based on the number of eligible students in each club’s school district.

The community goal of the Area 7 Literacy Project is to get children fluent in reading outside of school hours and ready to read when they enter school. Books distributed in the project network are fun books and not “assigned reading.” (Reprinted courtesy of Ben Gagnon, The Flushing View).