As a company that is dedicated to social goodness and giving back to families in need, we’re constantly on the look out for ways to educate, activate, and get children involved in charitable giving. And we also want to give thanks to those who are already paving the way in their communities by making a difference, both big and small. So, we’re proud to launch a new blog series profiling non-profits that are for kids (or run by them!) in the hopes that it leaves you and the little ones in your life inspired.
To kick off the series, and in the spirit of going back to school, we couldn’t wait to introduce you to Meredith Alexander, Executive Director of Milk + Bookies.
Q. What inspired you to start Milk + Bookies?
A. When I was a new(ish) mom, it was important to me that we spend time as a family helping others and having meaningful experiences that could help shape my children to become a positive change for good. I fantasized about filling our weekends with fun “open house” parties in shops and parks where we could pop in to participate for a cause. The options were slim to none in the area of service-learning activities designed specifically for families. I wondered if my friends felt the same way, so I organized a Sunday afternoon at a children’s book store and, voila!, Milk + Bookies was born almost ten years ago. My friends (and thousands of others to date) DID feel the same way.
Q. Why is it important to get kids involved in non-profit work?
When kids experience the act of helping others, they have a deeply visceral reaction and, as adults do, feel powerful, productive, and important in the world! With children, this action can translate to feelings of self-esteem and self-efficacy. Happily, this is a state of being that they will want to recreate, which, in turn, will make them a better person and the world a better place! Win/win.
Eighty-one percent of all adults who participate in volunteerism or donating to charity do so because they were exposed to it as a child. That’s a large percentage. Imagine if ALL children were exposed to giving—that would equate to, ultimately, ALL adults giving back in one way or another. Imagine how different the world would look if everyone helped out. Amazing, right?!
Q. How can people (and kids specifically) get involved with your organization?
Milk + Bookies has a customizable framework for hosting a “book-raiser.” We help families (and schools) add this easy exercise to birthday parties, scout troop meetings, libraries, classroom/school projects, and even community service activities for teens and tweens.
We have done all the heavy lifting, a busy parent or teacher need only order the “party-in-a-box.” Our headquarters will find you a worthy recipient to distribute the donated books right in your zip code so the books stay in the community where you live. Milk + Bookies provides bookplates to inscribe each book personally, and there is even literature for adults to talk to kids in a gentle and empowering way about what it means and how it feels to help others.
And—here is where the magic happens—the kids get to have all the fun when they are asked to thoughtfully choose and inscribe a book that will be given to a local child for their (sometimes first ever) bedtime story. It’s up to the host (this can be the birthday child or the collective vote of the troop/ class) if they want to choose a theme for the books, if books are to be new or gently used and, ultimately, which recipient group will receive them.
Q. What was your most memorable moment during your work with Milk + Bookies?
A. My favorite moment was many years ago, hearing a little girl, maybe 4 years old, leaving one of our bookstore gatherings. She said, “This was great, Daddy. Can we come back tomorrow and give more books to kids who need them?”
Exposing our children to these kinds of powerful experiences can seamlessly set them on a path of humanitarianism. I always refer to this as “getting them switched on” because once a child has that wisdom, they will absolutely work to recreate it for themselves. Maybe the next time they help it will be for homeless animals, raising money to cure a disease, or simply lending their jacket to a friend who’s chilly, but they will want to engage again and again. Mission accomplished.
Q. Getting and keeping a non-profit up and running can be hard work. Do you have any advice for someone of any age looking to start his/her own?
A. If you’re looking to start your own non-profit, my advice is to first do a lot of research—and then even more research—to find people already working in your area of interest. Your efforts are WAY better spent joining a current charitable organization with an existing infrastructure, which will enable you to spend your vitality on what you care deeply about. Starting your own non-profit results in income tax paperwork, paying the phone bills, and standing in line at the post office—required tasks that make it very easy to lose your passion for the cause that moves you. Stay enthusiastic and energetic by being a teammate, not a captain. Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” OR… Go for it and you have my sincere wish for good luck. If you want to start your own charity, you were clearly exposed to giving as a child. Who’s to stop you now?
To learn more about Milk + Bookies, organize your own book-raiser, or donate books, visit milkandbookies.org.