ST. GEORGE — Over 12,000 donated books will be found stuffed in stockings and tucked under the tree in the homes of needy children this Christmas.
With the goal of promoting literacy for Washington County school children, United Way Dixie teamed with the Utah Dixie Detachment 1270 Marine Corps League Toys for Tots program and KONY Coins for Kids for the “Stories with Santa” book drive.
“We have been working toward literacy here in Washington County for this year and we wanted to push that toward the holiday season as a way to distribute children’s books,” United Way Executive Director Rebekah Pectol said.
Over 400 volunteers gathered Thursday in St. George to help wrap the books. Each child recipient of the Toys for Tots program will receive three brand new books in addition to toys and other gifts.
“The toys are great, but kids get bored of them and they go away, but the educational stuff lives with them – they’ll carry it with them all their life,” Toys for Tots program coordinator and retired U.S. Marine Gy Sgt. Rick Massey said.
Close to 500 families throughout Washington County will benefit from the book drive.
“Currently in Washington County, one out of every four children in third grade are not reading at grade level,” Pectol said, “which really, really interferes with the success of their education – they’re less likely to graduate from high school.”
United Way Dixie worked with several businesses, organizations and community members to acquire the donated reading material.
“We appreciate the support from the community,” Massey said. “We’re very blessed here.”
The volunteers at the book-wrapping event were also enthusiastic to be playing a part in the massive donation effort.
“This type of event gives me the opportunity to give back to my community, and I personally just love doing it,” United Way Volunteer Coordinator Indigo Klabanoff said.
“It makes my heart happy,” she said.
St. George News’ Sheldon Demke contributed to this report.
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