By Tara Cavanaugh
Back in March, Logan Elementary school was commended by Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje for donating more than 5,000 books to the Philippines as part of its March Reading Month activities.
The First Presbyterian Church has gathered those books and are preparing them for shipping –– along with thousands of leftover school supplies from the Ann Arbor Public Schools.
The group has sent the Philippine city of Dumaguete books and gently used school supplies such as crayons, textbooks and paper since 1999, explained Virginia Rezmierski, a church volunteer.
Schools from Milan, Whitmore Lake, Dexter, Chelsea, Saline and Manchester also donate materials, but Rezmierski said the majority of supplies come from the Ann Arbor Public Schools.
This year’s participating schools include Allen, Angell, Ann Arbor Open, Bach, Bryant, Burns Park, Pittsfield, Carpenter, Dicken, King, Lakewood, Logan, Northside, Thurston and Wines.
This week, the Rezmierskis’ driveway was chock full of the used school supplies. Even in the soaring temperatures –– Washtenaw County remains under a heat advisory until 9 p.m. Saturday –– scores of volunteers worked outside, organizing and boxing up supplies.
“I had to tell them to leave at 5:15 yesterday,” Rezmierski said. “It was just too hot!” Yesterday’s temperatures reached over 100 degrees.
The church, working with Habitat for Humanity, has also built a community center, a dental clinic and houses in Dumaguete.
The donated books are sent to the community center and the poorest area schools. But first they’re sent to Silliman University where undergraduate students cover them in plastic. That way, they last longer, Rezmierski said.
As of Friday morning, the Rezmierski garage had 42 boxes full of supplies, each weighing around 200 pounds. The boxes will be shipped via Orient Express, making a trip to Chicago, California, Manila and then finally to Dumaguete.
Some donated supplies can’t be shipped –– items such as a set of globes that would take up too much space in the boxes –– so they’re donated to area charitable organizations, such as Peace Neighborhood Center in Ann Arbor and Second Mile in Detroit.
“These kids have never owned a book, and we’re throwing them in the landfill,” Rezmierski said. “So if we can rescue and recycle, and all these people are willing to work (in the heat) to make that happen, that’s a real praise to Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County.”
The church does fundraisers to help pay for shipping the boxes, which cost about $70 each. If you would like to donate money to help pay shipping costs, contact the First Presbyterian Church at 1432 Washtenaw Ave. or call (734) 662-4466.