$1 Million Worth of Books

Community Foundation, Toys For Tots partner to deliver 70,000 books to local kids

Marine Corps Toys For Tots in Dubuque, Iowa, has partnered with the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque to distribute more than $1 million worth of Scholastic Books to Tri-State area children through the Dubuque Community School District, area libraries and other school districts. As of this month, the partnership has resulted in the distribution of 70,000 books.

This summer, Dubuque Toys For Tots, working with the National Marine Corps Reserve Toys For Tots Foundation in Washington, D.C., was able to secure an agreement to accept two semi-trailers loaded with overstock children’s books from Scholastic Books for the 2022 Toys For Tots Season, valued at over $1 million. They arrived in mid-September.

Reaching out to the largest campaigns in the country, books were only offered if a location could accept at least a semi-load of pallets with a dock and a forklift to offload the donation. Because of the ongoing generosity of local Toys partner, The Hodge Companies, the local arm of the children’s charity has such facilities available year-round.

Coordinator Bryce Parks saw the value in the opportunity and immediately thought about the Community Foundation’s work to support early childhood literacy. Through its Every Child Reads initiative, the Foundation partners with educators, nonprofits, businesses and parents in the Dubuque region to address a key predictor of high school graduation: reading proficiency by the end of third grade. The Foundation and its partners do this by increasing access to books as well as supporting summer learning, school readiness and school attendance.

Nancy Van Milligen, president and CEO of the Community Foundation, was excited at the prospect of getting more books into children’s hands and asked about increasing the effort’s reach to school districts across the Dubuque region. Parks then “toyed” with the notion of requesting even more than a single load. He worked with Hischbach Motor Lines to line up a semi-trailer for additional storage at the Toys For Tots warehouse Dubuque and was able to accept two loads of books.

“It has felt like Christmas for the past few months, because it was both totally unexpected and we truly did not know what we were going to get,” said Parks. “But with Scholastic, it was a safe bet for a huge variety of quality books, perfect for both education and entertainment. And that’s just what we got.”

Book distribution across the Tri-States began this fall. The Community Foundation has managed distribution across the seven-county Dubuque region by working with contacts in local schools, libraries and local Every Child Reads program coordinators. Books were offered to support reading programs at schools across eastern Iowa and into Grant County, Wis., and JoDaviess County, Ill. Even with such extensive distribution, plenty of books were left to fully supply Toys For Tots’ own programs across the region, helping get even more books to kids this holiday season.

“Having books in the home from a young age is essential for children to develop strong literacy skills that will support them through school and beyond,” Van Milligen says. “This partnership is helping us distribute more books than we ever have and get them into the hands of children who need them most.”

Dubuque Toys For Tots was recognized in June by the National Marine Corps Reserve Toys For Tots Foundation as the No. 1 civilian Toys For Tots program in America from among 830 campaigns nationwide. The local programs serves over 5,000 underprivileged kids in four Tri-State counties. Parks traveled to Washington, D.C. in September to address the national convention. Follow Dubuque Toys For Tots adventures online at facebook.com/DBQToysForTots. Donate and find official campaign information at dubuque-ia.toysfortots.org.

Learn more about the Community Foundation’s Every Child Reads initiative at dbqfoundation.org/ecr.

Pictured: Community Foundation volunteers hand out free books at the 2022 Toys For Tots holiday event at the Five Flags Center.