15 June 2007

the non-profit community activates - our project continues

The word is passing around the net about what the "improvements" in the postal rate structure means to many of us dealing with foreign schools and teachers. The elimination of the surface transportation has more than tripled the cost of sending stuff oversea, particularly for those of us who sent books/educational material. Sending full container is one thing, but sending 50 pound boxes is something else entirely.

Luckily for "A Thousand Books" our country of service is Romania and there are economical shipping options available to us that most countries don't have, so we can carry on virtually without change.

As far as that goes, we have been trying to raise a bit of cash recently.

* A group of musicians who host a weekly "open-mic" night are allowing us to take donations at the door in lieu of free admission during May and June. We should raise enough there to fund a nice school library.
* A local talkshow host has a rock&roll band (seems common from those guys) and gave us a percentage of the receipts from a show they did.
* The local Romanian Orthodox church is allowing me to solicit its members to fund another school under our "Adopt-a-teacher" program (and I'm asking the local Greek Orthodox church to follow suit.
* I sent out a mailing to all the local Wal-Marts asking for contributions. They award small grants to approved local charities. So far no responses.
* I applied to a local grocery store that has a Wishing Well program. They finally met with me and it seems they may give us a month on their calendar.
* A wine bar and the local Romanian wine distributor is hosting a benefit wine-tasting with entertainment provided by the three Romanian-born members of the symphony.

20 May 2007

money raised and the Post Office throws a curve

In the past two weeks we have collected about $800 from a series of sources. It's enough for "a shipment" from Chicago to PCVs in Romania for our Primary Project. Excellent!

Our latest and greatest marketing idea is to "Adopt A Peace Corp Volunteer." Though much of our fund-raising will stay generic to accomodate the entire PCV list that we have, we will ask certain groups of individuals to adopt a specific teacher at a specific school from the incoming Group 22. Personalizing the process should make the experience a little more intense for both sides.

I anticipate providing additional materials to the adopted PCVs and I will be requestiing that they pay special attention to providing photos and official thanks to the sponsors. It means one volunteer might get nine boxes of books and another might get only three. But I am confident it will be a success in the long run.

Ou focus, has by necessity shrunken to providing books almost exclusively to Romania. "For the convenience of the customer" the Post Office has ceased providing surface service and sends only by air. Air is almost three and a half times more expensive. So, as proper stewards of our resources we have to decide whether use, say $50 to send thirteen pounds of books to 'whereever' or fifty pounds of books to Romania. The answer to 13 vs. 50 is obvious.

Of course we have books to give to those who provide postage, but most won't see the value.

15 May 2007

container is filled, the primary project continues

Since my last post I have made four more trips to the storage facility and finalized adding books to the last pallet. The collection aspect of the container project is essentially finished. I am continuing to use small boxes to set aside a pallet-worth of boxes that I will toss into the freespace of the container as it is loaded. Depending on how tight the load is I may get another 80 or 100 boxes in the container.

There is a blip in the road on the fund-raising front so if you are a praying person, say a few for us. It would be truly sad if 30,000 books intended for Romania didn't get there.

The primary project continues as I am doing my first in-your-face fund-raising blitz.

I did an event a couple weeks ago near a local uniuversity with the help of an RPCV that raised about $250. The next one will be this Saturday. We will get a piece of 'the door' at a concert performance by a local radio personality's band.

The unique event coming up is a 'up-scale' wine-tasting affair. I'm over my head on this and can only hope for the best. I'm accustomed to rock & roll events where it's simply "band plays for free and I get the cover charge." I don't know how the wine & cheese event will work out, but the local Romanian wine distributor is 'in,' as are the three Romanian-born musicians from the local symphony. "Romanian + Romanians for Romanian kids" at least gives us a good hook.

Besides these events I have a few others in the works, as I attempt to build a cash reserve for the new PCVs this Fall.

28 April 2007

another book-crazy weekend

Saturday saw the success of getting about 15 boxes of books and highlighted the disappointment that sometimes happens in what is essentially a one-man operation.

While I was distracted elsewhere someone grabbed 2 boxes of chapter books I had set aside and someone else got the 32-volume 1997 Encyclopedia Britannica. That was a huge dissappointment.

And with Sunday came 14 more boxes, bringing the total to 90% of the goal.

23 April 2007

Today was the famed Book Fair and we got about 35 boxes of books from them to add to the pile. I was assisted by a very nice lady who help pick and package the books and sat with them as I took the first load to the storage facility.

I'll take the load from the high school tomorrow.

It looks like another 5 or 6 major loads will finish off the project.

I'm hoping to involve a Chicago shipper in sharing costs and smoothing the way into Constanta.


21 April 2007

I'm sick but found a surprise...

My cold/flu has me feeling like poop, but I made it out to get books.

I got about fifteen boxes from the high school, A good mix of adult and kids' books. And on the way there I found a surprise book sale that netted another ten unexpected boxes of books.

There was some bad news today. I've heard the Post Office is restructuring some of it's services and getting rid of M-Bag Surface Mail. Presumably M-Bag Air Mail will remain, but it's more expensive. More to follow.

19 April 2007

dodged a bullet and another book source

After I dropped off the most recent stack of boxes of books I rearranged the pallets and I see we're rounding the bend and going into the stretch. I can see finishing the book-collection aspect of this project in the next couple of weeks. We'll be finished by the first of June, I'm sure.

I seem to have caught a bug working in that warehouse. I hope my flu shot holds up, but it doesn't look good.

However, there was some bad news/good news.

After I left the storage facility I headed to the Book Fair to nail down the details of charity day. I heard a clunk!! from the back of my pick-up and then a sharp bang-bang-bank-bang as I was driving down the highway. I looked to see if the straps had come loose from my load (they hadn't) and then I slowed to a stop. I looked underneath and didn't see anything dragging or missing and nothing leaking. But the noise persisted.

I spotted a Chevrolet dealer's sign and nursed it there where the guy said it could be the transmission or U-joint, both expensive proposals. He climbed under and found a piece of my tie-down strap wrapped around my drive shaft. He cut it away and sent me on my way without charge. Amazing!!

Between the car dealer and the book fair I saw a sign for another book sale at a church. I stopped and chatted with a guy there and he says I can help myself when the sale is over. I hinted at the need for money, too. I'll make a pitch next week.

I need to start fundraising on the primary mission, sending kids' books to Peace Corps grade school teachers. That financial cupboard is bare.