I have trouble saying no to anything, so when I was offered 35,000 brand-new bilingual board books for the East Bay Children’s Book Project, I said, “Sure, no problem. I’m sure our clients will be delighted.” Especially when I was told that they would be glad to deliver all 600 cases.

But then I started having nightmares. I had visions of boxes of books spilling out of the Grand Lake Neighborhood Center that is our home and onto the sidewalk. So I took a leap of faith. I sent a blast email to all 600 clients telling them they could take as many cases of books as they could use. (Each case held 48 identical books.) I ordinarily wouldn’t send an email until I had the books in hand, but with numbers like these, I couldn’t wait. I had to get them in and out the same day.

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I got a great response to the email. Calls and emails came from as far away as Campbell and San Jose. Then Tuesday morning, as I was awaiting the delivery, I got a call from Four Star Cleaning and Restoration, the owners of the books. They had a problem: Both their big trucks were unavailable and they wanted to delay the delivery for a day or two.

I quickly learned to say no. I had people who had planned their whole day around getting these books. So Woody, their driver, agreed to drive them over from Fremont in a pickup and make as many trips as needed. I don’t think Woody had a clue what he had volunteered for. Clients arrived before the books did and eagerly helped him unload. Woody ended up making two more trips on Tuesday and delivering the rest of the books on Wednesday.

The story on these books is fascinating. They were commissioned by First Five and printed in Peru. Then they were sent to California by ship and plane. The books sent by ship got moldy so First Five rejected them all. The ones sent by plane ended up at Four Star Cleaning and Restoration. After they were tested for mold, Cary Adler, Four Star’s President and CEO, started looking for a way to get rid of them and contacted me.

It was an incredible partnership. They gave us 35,000 books and we gave away 14,000 books on the first day and 10,000 since. Cases went to Kaiser Hospital, Children’s Hospital, Highland Hospital and Clinica de la Raza in Oakland. Seventy seven clients arrived from homeless shelters, child development centers, Head Starts and schools.

Giving books away is great fun. But the teachers, social workers and health care professionals who take our books have the most fun of all. They get to see the children’s faces as they take the books home. As Glenna Hamilton, a teacher at Nystrom School in Richmond said:

Be assured that your project was a hit in Richmond CA! There were smiles on everyone’s face at the end of the night. Books were going home and some children were even reading their books while waiting on their siblings or parents to select theirs. YOUR BOOKS MADE EVERYONE HAPPY!