HCC's Latinx Empowerment Association building 'Little Free Library' in Holyoke Flats
The Latinx Empowerment Association, a student Club at Holyoke Community College, is running a children's book drive to stock a "Little Free Library" they are creatiing in the Holyoke Flats.
The club has scheduled three February dates in different parts of the city where people can drop off donated books: Saturday, Feb. 13; Sunday, Feb. 21; and Sunday, Feb. 28, from 2 to 4 p.m.
While they are accepting donations of all kinds of children's books, they are emphasizing those that deal with topics of race, cultural heritage and representation, and LGBTQ+ issues.
"Our intention is to provide low-income families with access to a diverse range of books during the pandemic and winter months," said Miren Neyra Alcantara, a Holyoke resident and LEA Club president. "We believe in the power of literacy and education and are committed to social justice."
The idea began as a book donation and distribution for children who live in the Holyoke Flats, one of the poorest sections of the city. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, club members decided to turn the project into a "Little Free Library."
"As a resident of the Flats and a Holyoke Community College student, I believe that children who live here don't have enough access to books that represent them and their experience," said LEA Club member Alex Santiago, the lead organizer. "While two Little Free Libraries have been established in Holyoke, their locations in the Highlands mean they are not easily accessible to children living in the Flats. As a club, we believe that representation matters, especially during this alienating time."
The book drive starts on Sat., Feb. 13, from 2 to 4 p.m. in front of the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute at 164 Race St.
It continues on Sunday, Feb. 21, from 2 to 4 p.m. in front of the Dam Café, 2014 Northampton St.
The final day of the book drive is Sunday, Feb. 28 from 2 to 4 p.m. in front of Ely Court, 70 Lyman St.
People who bring books should look for a white Kia Optima or other vehicle parked in the street with its truck open and a sign reading "Book Drive Here." Club members are asking people to wear masks and respect social distancing guidelines.
"As people drive by they can drop their books in the trunk and they will receive a free surprise from one of the club members," said Alcantara.
The club has also created an Amazon Wish List for people who want to donate books but cannot make it to one of the book drive days.
PHOTO: (Thumbnail) LEA Club members Alex Santiago and Julio Colon hold a couple of children's books donated for the free little library. (Above) HCC math teacher Nick Schwab donates a box of children's books during the first day of the LEA Club book drive.