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Volunteers bring books into schools
Read Across Liberty Day
Cpt. Justin High and Lt. Col. Greg Sierra hold up a thank you drawing give to them by some students. - photo by Photo by Lauren Hunsberger

Schools get to keep books

The Kiwanis Club of Liberty County, in partnership with the Rotary Club of Hinesville, Target and Keep Liberty Beautiful, gave more than 5,000 books to children and area schools Thursday as part of the second annual Read Across Liberty Day.
The work was part of Kiwanis’ efforts in serving the children of the world, according to Leah Poole, chairman of the program for the club and local United Way director.
The program, which started as the recognized Kiwanis Read-A-Book, Give-A-Book program, put volunteers into classrooms across the county to read age appropriate books for 30 minutes. The books were then left in the classroom so children could go back and re-read the book he or she could.
“Ideally, we would love to purchase a book for each child to take home with him or her to add to their own library,” Poole said.
But, she said the help from all the civic clubs and industry did make this year’s program will let children borrow the books.
“Thanks to this grant from Target, as well as the partnerships formed with the Rotary Club of Hinesville and Keep Liberty Beautiful, we are going to be able to place books in the hands of these children to take back to their homes,” Poole said.
This year also involved a number of 3rd Infantry Division soldiers from the 2-7th Infantry Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade and BOSS have agreed to volunteer their time and considerable talents to reading to students both on and off of Fort Stewart.
Another addition this year was a bookmark that each student received courtesy of Keep Liberty Beautiful. The bookmarks had seeds and Earth Day and water conservation information on it. Students could take them home and plant them to grow wildflowers.
The grant was part of ongoing efforts by Target to strengthen families and communities throughout the country, according to Laysha Ward, vice president, community relations for the company. Since opening Target has given 5 percent of its income to organizations that support education, the arts and safe families and communities. Today that translates to $3 million every week.
“At Target, we are making a real difference every day through our grant-making program,” Ward said. “We’re proud to partner with the Kiwanis Club of Liberty County as part of our ongoing commitment to give back to the communities where our guests and team members live and work.”

Early Thursday morning, battalion commander Lt. Col. Greg Sierra sat in his uniform, facing 20 wiggly 4-year-olds on a brightly colored carpet.
He captivated their attention, no easy feat.
He, like 35 other soldiers from the Task Force 2-7, was reading "The Earth Day Puppy" to classes at the Liberty County Pre-K center as part of Read Across Liberty Day, a joint program between local schools, Rotary and Kiwanis clubs and Target, which has a distribution center in east Liberty County.
Dozens of soldiers from other battalions also took a break from training schedules to spend the morning at local Pre-K and elementary schools around the area. There were also civilian volunteers to read to the children.
Melissa McCaller, media specialist at the Pre-K center, said the program is a perfect fit because the kids respond well to soldiers, who often serve as role models.
And, as the kids sat with wide, attentive eyes and an artillery of questions and responses, it seemed she was exactly right.
"We're really fortunate," she said of Sierra's soldiers who both attend system-wide events like Read Across Liberty and make weekly visits to the school.
After finishing the book, some soldiers stayed to field tough questions about environmental responsibility, which was the theme of the program.
"Why isn't there a space day?" a young student asked Sierra.
PFC Jeff Schnell, who read to a different class, said the reading went well. He was surprised to see the influence he had on the children.
"I couldn't believe how much they remembered," he said. "I asked them questions about the story after, and they actually knew the answers."
It wasn't just the students who gained through the partnership. Sierra said bonding with the students makes soldiers feel good too.
"Giving back to the community you get this special feeling," Sierra said. "It's been a great opportunity."
He said he and the soldiers get just as enthusiastic as the students.
"You can see it in their actions and faces," he said. "It's not like pulling teeth; they really want to help out."
Sierra and the other 2-7 soldiers plan to continue their relationship with the Pre-K center.
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