For the last nine years, one of the most familiar and welcome faces at Books to Prisoners has been volunteer Kerensa Stoll, who has filled a number of roles with legendary efficiency and cheerfulness.

Kerensa began volunteering at Books to Prisoners in 2003 after finding out about it on the King County United Way website. “It seemed like a good opportunity to combine my love of books with my desire to do something for those who didn’t have the same opportunities and support that I did. Both my mom and step-dad were influences on my desire to volunteer as they gave a lot to others through their time and talents when I was growing up.”

Since becoming a BTP Keyholder, Kerensa has prepared the annual financials, printed the postage for mailings, been the coordinator with Mercer Island summer volunteer program for students, and helped with fundraising events, but one of her favorite tasks at BTP is wrapping packages.  Whenever she can, during a Monday or Tuesday volunteer session, she spends a little time wrapping books to be mailed. “My mom used to let me wrap all of the family’s Christmas presents—including my own.”

Growing up in Anchorage, Alaska, Kerensa always had a love of reading and, after finishing her bachelor of arts in English, began a master of library science, only to realize that she was much more interested in reading books than understanding how they were cataloged or how to research. “I am one of the lucky English majors, as I found my niche as a project manager for an engineering firm.” At least for the next few years, to follow that career path she’ll be taking a leave from Books to Prisoners, because she has sold her Seattle apartment and Buddy 125 scooter and relocated to Australia, where she was recently accepted to the masters of engineering management program at the University of Technology–Sydney. “I’ll be starting that program in July 2012 (spring quarter down under).”

For her, the best thing about volunteering at BTP is receiving a thank-you letter from prisoners. “So many prisoners feel as if no one cares, and it’s amazing that something as simple as sending books reminds prisoners that there are people that do.  Many thank-you letters speak of the darkness and despair that may prisoners feel, and BTP is a small light in their lives. There is a fundamental flaw with a justice and prison system that does nothing to break the cycle of recidivism. Reminding prisoners that they have value is part of breaking that cycle, and while sending books will not change the world, I hope that BTP’s work is a small step in the right direction.”

Kerensa is looking forward to visiting Seattle soon to enjoy time with friends and family in the Pacific Northwest, including a trip to San Juan Island. “I will hit my favorite Seattle restaurants, stock up on my favorite American products that I can’t get in Australia, and head to Anchorage for a little family reunion.”

What is her hope for BTP over the next five years?  “Finances are always a pressing need for BTP, but I hope that one day we don’t have such a large backlog of packages waiting to be wrapped!”

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