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Second Annual BJC Book Brigade Sends Area Children Home for the Summer with a New Book

When second-graders in public school districts served by BJC HealthCare packed up their desks after the school year ended, they had a brand new book to take home to encourage their summer reading.

In its second year, the BJC Book Brigade provided more than 25,000 books to rising third-graders in over 320 public and charter schools throughout the communities served by BJC hospitals, including St. Louis City, St. Louis County, St. Charles County, Columbia, Sullivan and Farmington in Missouri; and Alton, Belleville and Shiloh, Ill. 

The program is a BJC community outreach effort in recognition of the correlation between education and higher income, better health and longer life expectancy.

“We want to encourage reading, knowing it is the foundation of learning and because there is a relationship between educational attainment and health outcomes,” says June McAllister Fowler, BJC senior vice president of communications, marketing and public affairs, who directs the BJC program. “Our BJC Book Brigade is an opportunity for us to champion learning and support our communities.”

Book titles are selected by curriculum specialists based on age-appropriate content and storyline messages. Employees had the opportunity to donate books online or at local drop-off points, and BJC supplied the remainder. Books were packaged and delivered to the districts prior to the end of the school year to encourage summer reading programs.

“While it may seem like a modest effort to us, many of the children who received a book last year wrote touching notes to express their heartfelt appreciation for a brand new book of their own,” adds Fowler. “In the journey toward higher education and better health, the BJC Book Brigade is one small step in a journey that will take a very long time. But, we believe it’s well worth the long-term effort toward improved reading, high school graduation rates and, ultimately, better health for the future.”

Books were collected beginning in February and delivered to schools by May 12. 

Partner Prepares Books for Delivery

BJC partnered with Valley Industries, a non-profit sheltered workshop in Hazelwood, Mo., to sort, label, pack and ship the books this year. 

Valley Industries, which celebrates 50 years of service this year, employs more than 200 workers with developmental disabilities. “These employees are reliable, work hard and enjoy every single second of their time at work,” says Jim Guyre, executive director. “They show us that well-trained workers with extraordinary concentration deliver extraordinary quality products and services.”

Valley Industries began in March 1967 with two locations and moved into one big, centrally located industrial facility in 2001. That facility boasts 60,000 square feet of workspace and an 18,000-square-foot warehouse. 

The company is ISO-certified as an assembly and distribution plant. (ISO standards ensure that a company’s products or services are safe, reliable, of good quality and meet the expectations of its customers, and that the company’s work processes are safe and effective.)

“Our main goals are meaningful, dignified employment for our workers and satisfaction for our customers,” says Guyre, who started volunteering at the workshop while in high school, before eventually working his way up to executive director.

Half of the Valley Industries workforce has been with the workshop for more than 20 years, and two employees have worked there since it started. “It’s very rare that anyone is out sick,” Guyre adds. “Our workers are joyful and happy. They have meaningful work to do, they have fellowship with one another and they have a purpose for moving forward each day.”

Valley Industries partners with companies across the St. Louis metropolitan area, working on projects ranging from wrapping and packaging services, to tool assembly and disassembly, to mailing services and other flexible, labor-intensive services.

“Every customer is unique,” says Guyre. “We break jobs down into multifaceted projects, and we adjust our schedule to meet the customer’s needs. If there’s a process problem or an issue, we work through it. 

The key is getting it done. We make sure that every customer is taken care of and every job is done to the customer’s satisfaction.”

For more information, visit the Valley Industries website.

‘It was nice of you to give us some books’
After the second-graders received their books, many of them sent thank you notes to BJC. Here are a few examples:

  • “Thank you for the book. I love it. I love reading.” — Lexi
  • “Thank you for the book. I cannot wait to read it.” — Cheyenne
  • “I love the chapter book I got. You are very nice. I hope you have a good summer.” — Kyrsten
  • “I loved the book I picked out. Thank you sooo much for the book. You are sooo kind. And the books are sooo new and fantastic. Amelia Bedelia is probably going to be the best book I’ve ever read.” — Iliana
  • “I really like my book. The funniest part was when he wanted a pet shark. It was a very funny book. Thank you for the book.” — Harlie
  • “We thank you for the books and bookmarks. And we thank you for the Amelia Bedelia books. We hope you give us more books. We hope you like our letter. You are the best.” — Amayah and Melissa
  • “Thank you for the bookmarks and books and all of the happiness you gave us.” — Carson
  • “I got the book Amelia Bedelia Goes Wild. This book is helping me spell and read. You guys are helping a lot of second-graders.” — Lachlyn
  • “Thank you for delivering books to us so we could be smart and keep reading. Also, so we can advance grades every year and someday be like you guys.” — James
  • “I was super excited when I realized I was going to get a new book! I can’t wait to show my parents the new book! — Jenna
  • “Thank you for the lovely book. It’s really good so far. In fact, I’m reading it right now!” — Olivia
  • “Thank you for the books. This summer I’m pretty sure I’m going to be on my book every day all day long.” — Emmi
  • “Thank you for the books. I want to give you something back, but I don’t know what to give. Here is my thank you.” — Daniel
  • “Thank you for the books. I am going to read my book every day.” — Jocelyn
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