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Making a difference for local childhood literacy

A new budget for bookworms - donor makes a difference for local childhood literacy

Want to know how a piece of Alabama transformed an Athens elementary school library? We’ll give you a hint. The Athens Area Community Foundation plays a key role.

Camilla Bracewell first partnered with the Athens Area Community Foundation three years ago after selling some family land in Alabama. She knew she wanted to impact children’s literacy but wasn’t sure where her contributions would best fit.

“My sister and I had sold some land, and we knew that we wanted to set aside some money to give back to the community. I had been involved with Barrow Elementary School in the media center. I started volunteering when my granddaughter was in school there. I was very impressed with the breadth of what the media specialist was doing with and for the children.

“My husband and I knew we wanted to do something to support the media center, but we weren’t sure how. We thought about setting up an award that would recognize media specialists in our community and then were directed to the community foundation. The person who recommended AACF felt that they could do a better job of connecting us to what we were really interested in,” said Camilla.

Through the Athens Area Community Foundation, Camilla set up a fund to benefit Barrow Elementary School in Clarke County. She specifically wanted to help purchase new books for their library.

“Part of the reason I feel so strongly about this is the passion of the media specialist in our school. He does amazing things in the library, and lets the kids be involved. My granddaughter was a part of one program where he had the children meet with different book vendors and choose what book options they wanted for the next year. They’d have the opportunity to talk with vendors and interview other kids.

“The students were the ones who decided which new books would be bought. I knew I wanted to help provide more books to the school, but these students’ experience convinced me that I wanted to give to the media center each year. And my fund is part of the money for the student’s book budget,” said Camilla.

Every August, Camilla’s fund donates $500 to Barrow Elementary School. Because of the Athens Area Community Foundation’s guidance, Camilla’s making an impact on a cause she’s personally passionate about without having to donate thousands of dollars at a time.

“The community foundation offers a connection between people who want to give and groups who have a need. They do a great job with whichever end you’re coming from. If you’re a group that has a need, they'll work with you to find someone who wants to give, and if you’re a giver, then they can match you with a group that you’re passionate about.

“They have a real pulse on the different needs in our community at all different levels. They help you support causes that you’re interested in. They provide really strong leadership within our community. They’re set up to be doing the right things for the right reasons,” said Camilla.

Through volunteering with the school her fund benefits, Camilla sees the impact of her giving first-hand, and she couldn’t be more excited about the joy she’s been able to provide these students.

“I know how important books are to these students. I volunteer with these children, and many of them don’t have extra books at home. Here I am buying books for my granddaughter at every opportunity, and it breaks my heart that some of these children don’t have access to extra books,” she said.

“Seeing the excitement on the kids’ faces when they check out a new book and listening to them tell you how they’re going to read them as soon as they get home really cemented that I wanted to help more children develop a love for reading. It grew my passion for childhood literacy. I wanted to support not only the children who are in the school right now, but it was also really important to me to give to the future. I wanted something that would be in place for a long time - beyond my lifetime.”

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The Athens Area Community Foundation is a public grantmaking foundation that builds community by encouraging long term giving through funds created by caring donors.

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