By Kent Larsen
LDS Woman's Effort Brings Books to Impoverished School
GRAYSVILLE, ALABAMA -- LDS Church member Anne Kate Ard picked up a piece of
paper that she thought she had dropped in a Hoover, Alabama parking lot, and
discovered a need. The piece of paper wasn't hers at all -- it was a letter,
a plea from an elementary school teacher for books for her impoverished
students. And Ard says her discovery of the letter was no coincidence.
The piece of paper was a letter from Brookville Elementary School teacher
Jennifer Heerten, whose school is part of the Alabama Reading Initiative, a
program that is trying to bring the reading ability of students up to grade
level. Heerten was faced with a variety of ability in her class, and a
variety of resources, "I had some kids reading picture books and some at the
fifth grade level," Mrs. Heerten said. "I wanted every child to have from
five to 15 reading books for their personal use."
But Heerten faced a big obstacle because her students were mostly
impoverished, as she described in the letter that Ard found, "Seventy
percent of our children live below the poverty line. Many of our students
are being raised by a single parent or other relative. Twenty are homeless,"
she wrote in the letter. In addition, the school is unable to provide books
for personal use.
At the suggestion of a friend, Heerten wrote her letter as a fundraising
plea and approached a local bank. When that failed to get a donation, an
employee at her father's law office, Jackie Clark, added Heerten's wish list
to the letter and made copies to distribute at a literary club meeting. One
copy of the letter blew out her window in the Hoover parking lot, where Ard
As improbable as that string of events is, its more improbable when the
distances between these places are clear. Hoover is about 10 miles south of
Birmingham, while the elementary school, in Graysville, is nearly 15 miles
northwest of Birmingham. But Ard's Oak Mountain LDS congregation is 45 miles
south of Hoover. But Ard says she was meant to find the letter, "Someone
dropped the letter and it found the right person. I don't think that's a
An engineer who designs electrical control systems, Ard and all her family
are high achievers who credit their success to an early love of books, "We
were moved by the letter because we grew up having everything we needed,"
she said. "It's hard to overestimate the impact of something as basic as
books." So Ard delivered on the need. Two teenage nieces donated 100 books
for the cause, and Ard delivered them to Heerten's father's law office. She
put together a second delivery from the books on the wish list and included
one of her own favorite books. She then made 20 copies for members of her
LDS congregation and sent an email message to 100 coworkers.
The school's principal says that while the school has great support from its
community, these donations are "the most unusual example [of community
support] I've seen." The students in Heerten's class, meanwhile, are trying
to figure out what the did to deserve the books. "I tell them that every
good deed will be returned two-fold," says Heerten. "They're convinced
they've done something really special to deserve this."
Letter found in Hoover lot gets books for Brookville
Birmingham AL News 23May01 P2
By Liz Ellaby: News staff writer