Our intentions of getting Volunteer of the Month interviews out on a monthly basis may have stumbled somewhat, but – thankfully – our volunteers themselves have held steady!
For this month (and, I suppose, last month,) we’re detailing the “bubble shift” of a group of our at-home wrappers. These are volunteers who pick up paired bundles of letters and books from our office, wrapped them at home, and brought them back into the office to be shipped out.
Per tradition, we asked them if they had any interest in talking a bit about their experiences with BTP. Two of them, Bridget and Carol, gave responses for this blog post – which you can read below!
Why do you volunteer with BTP?
Bridget: BTP allows me to do one of my favorite things in life – recommend books to people who know reading to be essential to their well being. It is immensely satisfying to me to connect individual readers with the specific books they request and to pair adventuresome readers with books they might not know or anticipate liking. Reading is a lifelong, daily routine for me. I enjoyed a 36-year career as a librarian and I cannot imagine not having access to books, newspapers, and magazines. The letters coming to BTP show me how critically important books and reading material are to incarcerated people of all reading levels. Some letters are very brief, just a sentence or two. Others are expansive and include long wishlists of book titles. No matter the length of the letter, the goal for BTP volunteers is the same – get reading material into the hands of people who need it. Whether for recreation or in furtherance of educational goals, each book we send out makes a difference in someone’s long day.
Carol: I joined Books to Prisoners with two friends looking to be useful. These prison systems are part of a broken landscape that fails to provide equal justice and opportunities to thrive.
Are there any experiences you’ve had with BTP that you want to share?
Bridget: I do this work with two good friends who are also neighbors. We began volunteering two years ago as of last month. Prior to working remotely, we were part of the Wednesday morning shift of regulars at BTP. I have enjoyed getting to know the many people who share their time and passion for this work.
What else do you like to do with your time? (Very optional question if you’d rather not talk about yourself!)
Bridget: My husband and I enjoy travel. In retirement, we have taken one long trip of several weeks’ duration each year. Sometimes those trips take us to places here in the US; other years we are fortunate to spend time in Italy, a country whose cuisine and language we both love. We were looking forward to exploring Nova Scotia in 2020. But, like so many, we have stayed close to home, enjoying the garden and taking long walks around the city. Thankfully, my wonderful book group continues to meet remotely each month. We have been gathering for more than 40 years and long for the time we can once again be in the same room together.
Carol: At home, I’m in the garden tending to semi-wild spaces where creatures that crawl, walk, and fly can thrive. My husband, a landscape architect, has worked to bring gardens to the underserved, including a mother/child garden in a women’s prison.
What are you reading right now?
Bridget: I find I have read much more nonfiction the past four years than any other time in my reading life. I just finished historian Jon Meacham’s The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels. He is such a good storyteller. This book explores contentious periods in our country’s history and details how presidents and citizens “came together to defeat anger, intolerance, and extremism”. It is a timely and compelling read. And yes, I will donate it to BTP so others might enjoy it.
Carol: I am reading Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology.
Is there anything else you’d like to say that didn’t make it in earlier?
Bridget: It has been so gratifying to see that in a situation as serious as a pandemic, BTP is flexible and supportive of volunteers working from home. Carol and Terry and I have been able to set up our wrapping operation in a generous neighbor’s garage. With our readers enduring lockdowns because of the virus, getting books and other reading material into their hands as quickly as possible is more important than ever. The Annex, as we have dubbed it, provides a place to continue volunteering safely with BTP.
Carol: I’m grateful for the chance to work with Books to Prisoners, making connections between the prisoner’s requests and the resources we can gather, and making common ground with others who are reaching out and reaching back.
Hopefully, we’ll be back in January with another set of interviews. To everyone reading this, have a happy new year!