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Sent on Mormon-News: 23May01

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 found it.

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 coincidence."

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


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