(Left to right) Katie Fafara, Sonali Gopal, Lucie Sechler, Meg McCarthy, Sam Schmitz, and Diya Gopal visit the local post office to send boxes of books to four of the libraries in Texas, whose collections were destroyed by Hurricane Harvey.Photos by Laura Drinan
By Laura Drinan
Hometown Weekly Reporter
As Houston and the surrounding towns affected by Hurricane Harvey began to go back to normal, many schools discovered their libraries had suffered devastating losses. Without an adequate library, students cannot reach the milestones in literacy development that are crucial for their academic lives.Obviously, waterlogged books were useless to Texas students and teachers, so Westwood’s Meg McCarthy put a solution into action: to take some of the children’s books from the biannual library book sale and send them to elementary schools in Houston.
“We’re a little overstocked right now because we had to hold off on our sale, so we thought it was a great opportunity to send to Texas,” Meg said. As a group of volunteers excitedly sorted through the stacks upon stacks of books, Meg packed the stories into boxes to ship across the country.
“I got the idea from Donna Cantarella at Downey Elementary School,” said Meg. “I emailed her and said, ‘I have so many books. Can I pull some for you?’ and she knew I was into philanthropy and she said, ‘Well, I think they’d be better going to Texas at this point.’”
Donna, the librarian at Downey Elementary, had a spreadsheet from the Texas Library Association, which was keeping track of the Texas libraries’ losses. To help rebuild some of the libraries whose collections were completely destroyed, Meg chose four elementary schools from the list.
Meg chose a group of voracious readers, who all happen to have attended Downey Elementary, to help her sort and pack. Eleven-year-old Sam Schmitz, 12-year-olds Lucie Sechler and Sonali Gopal, 14-year-old Diya Gopal, and 18-year-old Katie Fafara dedicated their afternoon to packing boxes for Houston elementary schools. Katie also had a personal connection to the cause, as her family just outside of Houston experienced Harvey’s destruction.
Once the group taped up the boxes and stuck the labels on them, they felt ready to head across the street to the post office. In honor of her mother, who was a librarian, Meg and her husband covered the shipping fee to send the boxes of books to Texas. “Reading is in our blood,” said Meg, “so I jumped at the opportunity to help libraries in need.”
For the libraries in Houston, the boxes of books were not only acts of kindness from their friends in Westwood. They were keys to unlocking the knowledge and success that children’s strong relationship to literature can hold.