Like other great ideas, this one started with locals Paul and Tracy Wilkes. Paul is with Homes of Hope – India, ensuring the well-being of girls in orphanages there. One of his fundraising efforts was running an e-bookstore on Amazon, and when his non-profit had to shift gears, his wife Tracy, the founding Director of DREAMS, recommended that he pass along the bookstore as a gift/source of revenue to the Cape Fear Literacy Council. It makes sense, right? Literacy Council…books…a natural fit!
But it wasn’t a step that we took instantly. Our campus was still in a state of chaos from Hurricane Florence in late 2018 when this idea was proposed. We already had a lot going on at our small organization, including piloting an expanded digital literacy program. Would this “natural fit” be a real benefit or too much of a distraction?
Two of our board members, a financial strategist and an operations expert (who was also the strongest skeptic of the project), met with Paul to understand the logistics, revenues and expenses, and realities of a non-profit running a small, for-profit business. After thoughtful consideration by the full board, we decided it was an exciting opportunity and committed to making it happen.
We started moving boxes of books (the first time of many!) in November 2018, and launched our Amazon store in February 2019. The learning curve was steep. Thankfully, one of the key volunteers with Homes of Hopes transitioned the project to CFLC and stayed on with us. We recruited other volunteers specifically for our bookstore, and with open minds and frequent check-ins, we became operational. We made mistakes and learned from them; we held a wildly successful book drive; we outgrew our donated space; and we moved more boxes of books. So many boxes of books.
Fast forward to 2020, and we are much, much better at this side hustle. Like everything we do at CFLC, at the core is a group of dedicated volunteers. Our team includes our original recruits; a lead librarian and her friends who help us manage inventory; our “heavy lifter,” who gladly collects books from donors’ homes; a strategic advisor who has experience in e-commerce; and, most recently, a professional designer who will help us market this initiative more intentionally. We have a bigger, climate-controlled space to house our collection (but are always looking for a no-cost option to improve our ROI… call me!). We have better systems and a greater understanding of how to sell effectively on Amazon.
The result of this investment of time, energy, and talent is that every month, thanks to books, we are raising money to support the adult education programs at Cape Fear Literacy Council. Above that, though, we are trying to help others. We collect children’s books for Nourish, NC; we supply books for Little Free Libraries for the Wilmington Housing Authority and other locations; and we’re starting to identify books to provide for DREAMS and other non-profits. Additionally, we have a significant number of books to pass along to the Friends of the Library for their Book Sale, when that becomes possible again.
So, if you have books to donate, please call (910) 251-0911 to make an appointment to drop them off or for our volunteer to come pick them up from you! Please note that we are unable to take: books in poor condition, encyclopedias, and DVDs. Otherwise, CFLC wants to be the place that you think of when you have books to donate – we’ll do our best to make sure they do the most good.
Yasmin Tomkinson started volunteering as a 1-on-1 tutor at Cape Fear Literacy Council (CFLC) in 2002, and was delighted to join the staff in 2004. She is now the Executive Director and remains inspired by CFLC’s diverse adult learners and dedicated volunteers. CFLC’s mission is to provide personalized education so adults can transform their lives and contribute to a stronger community. For 35 years, this indispensable non-profit has been making a positive impact in our region, one adult learner at a time.
Johanna F. Still - May 16, 2022
Staff Reports - May 16, 2022
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