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Local Ferst Foundation chapter celebrates 10 years of free books

By Rachel McDaniel Have you ever picked up a children’s book and remembered reading it – or having it read to you – as a child? Ferst Foundation of Lamar County is celebrating 10 years of providing local children with their first books. Books are an important part of childhood and they help children develop character and reading skills. Ferst Foundation provides free books for every child in Lamar who is under 5 years old and they have placed more than 71,000 books in local homes. The group raises funds each year only by mailing letters to local citizens and businesses asking for donations. ’We want people to know that 100% of the donations given locally stay in Lamar County and 100% of the donations go to place books in children’s homes,’ said Ferst Foundation board chair Lynda Brutz. ‘We have to start over every January with fundraising and every year we have to raise $30,000 to supply books to all the local children signed up for the program. This is not a book of the month club, this is a literacy program and we make every effort to enhance reading and learning. The whole idea is to help these children become good citizens. By the time they are 5, they can build their own little library.’ Ferst Foundation is a 501(c)3 non profit and donations can be made by mailing checks to P.O. Box 926, Barnesville GA 30204. To sign up a child for the program or for more on how to donate, call 770-358-3270 or visit the Barnesville-Lamar County Library. Nancy Tenney is a Ferst Foundation of Lamar County board member who has seen the impact of the program firsthand. She is a retired teacher and has seen children bring their Ferst Foundation knowledge to the classroom. ’I know the Ferst Foundation is making a difference because when the children see a book that is one sent out by the Ferst Foundation, they say ‘˜I have that book’ and others say, ‘˜I have that book too.’ The founder of this program, Robin Ferst (of Madison), wanted this to be the equalizer for all students in Georgia and it does make them feel equal to know they are getting the same books others are.’ Ferst Foundation also places book displays with registration papers in local doctors offices and at the health department. Books are also delivered to local daycare programs as well as Head Start and pre-k classrooms. Promotional videos for local groups or organizations as well as a video about how to register can be made available for those interested. A Ferst Foundation member can also attend a meeting to explain more about the program and answer any questions. The Ferst Foundation program includes a monthly newsletter designed to help parents teach their children, including reading guides and child activity pages. For more about Ferst Foundation, go to ’Children get so excited when they get a new book in the mail and they look forward to it each month,’ said Lamar Ferst Foundation board member Pat Edwards. ’Ferst Foundation isn’t just about giving out books, it is a literacy program that is committed to helping children learn to read. We have had some phenomenal board members in the past 10 years and some who have been on board since the very first meeting. They are all volunteers and they are a part of this because they believe in promoting literacy and the value it brings to our community. The board has always been wonderful and we have always had members committed to making this program work. Everybody on the board has a job and they are passionate about what they are doing.’ Current Ferst Foundation of Lamar County board members include Donna Abbott, Fran Boggs, Amy Christopher, chair Lynda Brutz, Anita Cole, Pat Edwards, Charles Glass, Diane Harvey, Kelly Hughes, Margie Mangham, Robin Milam, Tammie Merritt, Gail Rooks, Dr. Julie Steele, Nancy Tenney and Nancy Turner. Dr. Julie Steele and Jason Byars serve on the state Ferst Foundation board. ’Young children learn so quickly and these books help them learn – not just colors, shapes and words – but also values, character and a love of reading. The schools are doing a phenomenal job promoting Ferst Foundation and this program’s success is a cooperative effort from many members of the community,’ said Brutz. ‘At the state level, Lamar County is one of the counties that is used as example of what a county can do when everyone works together. We think this program is great, but we also think Lamar County is great.’ Memorials or donations or donations in honor of those living or deceased can be mailed to Ferst Foundation to P.O. Box 926, Barnesville GA 30204.

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