A student at Lodge Primary School shows off his new books.

By Emily Mosh

A great book can bring people together, and not just people who are old enough to drive themselves to a bookstore. Waddell Elementary School in Lexington has partnered with Washington and Lee University on a project to send books to children in the Caribbean.

“We created this program where the students at Waddell are going to donate books that they have in their home that they’re not using anymore,” said Washington and Lee senior Chloe Bellomy. “They’re going to stick a note in the book that tells why they liked the book and a little bit about themselves, and then the children in the Caribbean will get those notes and will hopefully write back.”

The project is an outgrowth of Books for Africa, a program started at Washington and Lee a few years ago. It is unrelated to the national charity of the same name. But as Bellomy said, the ending location for the books this year isn’t anywhere in Africa. The books will be sent to Lodge Primary School on the island of St. Vincent, part of the island nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

How do the students at Waddell feel about their possible new pen-pals?

“Since the info fliers went out yesterday, our first collection box has been filled,” said Waddell Elementary Guidance Counselor Kristin Tomlin. The students seem enthusiastic, Tomlin said.

Tomlin is promoting the service project in her classroom guidance lessons during March. Aiding Tomlin at Waddell is Ruth Kitchen, a special education teacher at the school. Kitchen is also a board member of Caribbean Encounters, a locally run nonprofit organization that has supported missions in the St. Vincent area in the past.

Caribbean Encounters founders Susan and Scott Dittman approached Bellomy with the idea of sending books to St. Vincent. Lodge Primary School was just starting up its own library, they said, and could really benefit from the help. Dittman is university registrar at Washington and Lee. Bellomy’s group embraced the idea.

“We’ll set up sort of a cultural exchange between those two schools,” said Bellomy. “With this Waddell partnership, it’s a great way to teach kids how reusing things can…really have a big impact, and about teaching kids about those less fortunate and how they can help.”

The project’s focus is primarily on pleasure reading, but elementary textbooks can be sent as well. The collection box at Waddell is at the main entrance of the school, so all 340 students will walk by it every day this month.

There will be a collection box in Elrod Commons at Washington and Lee as well. Anyone from the community can leave books at either of the drop-offs.

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