Every change begins with one person. That's what Emily Duhn of Zionsville has started in local food pantries.
Duhn was listening to a podcast in November titled "Read Aloud Revival" and heard about Pam Leo, creator of the Book Fairy Pantry Project. The goal of the Book Fairy Pantry project is that increased literacy will decrease poverty, Duhn said.
The Book Fairy Pantry Project allows children and youth to take home books from food pantries.
“I never thought about the idea of kids not having books,” Duhn said.
Not only did Duhn listen to the backstory of the projectm she also reached out to Leo and other local individuals and pantries to start a local Book Fairy Pantry Project.
Books were the missing piece to the puzzle. Duhn partnered with Gina Sprenger, founder of the Indy Book Project, to get the books to the pantries.
The Indy Book Project partners with neighborhood centers, non-profits and agencies that serve children.
“The early childhood years are critical when it comes to reading,” Sprenger said. "I was on board right away with no hesitations."
The next issue was how to store the books at the food pantries.
Duhn buys tiered carts on Facebook marketplace. Duhn formerly worked for the Brownburg School District and asked if Brownsburg art teacher Tracee Cinkus would be interested in having her students decorate the carts. Brownsburg East Middle School Art Club has now decorated three carts with a garden theme, space theme, and a watermelon theme, Duhn said.
"I was thrilled to start brainstorming with my art club students," Cinkus said. "The art club students and I talked about the importance of children having access to reading because if food is less accessible, books are definitely less accessible. They came up with a handful of themes and voted on their favorite ideas and students got right to work."
The first area food pantry to have a Book Fairy Pantry Project is the Storehouse Food Pantry in Speedway, which began in March.
This connection happened through word of mouth. Pantry leader Rich Hoerger created a reading corner with people who read to children. Speedway has not needed additional books because the community has been filling the need, Duhn said.
The second food pantry to have a Book Fairy Pantry Project is at the Zionsville Presbyterian Church.
Volunteer Marty DuRall manages the project at ZPC, which had already been giving out books for roughly two years. The cart there is aquarium-themed and designed by artist Jae Donathen.
The third food pantry to have a Book Fairy Pantry Project is in Brownsburg, which began in April.
Recently, the Caring Center has also partnered with Duhn to bring the Book Fairy Pantry Project to Lebanon.
Duhn asked her neighbors, Terry McCain and Mike Howenstein, if they would make a box to hold books for the Caring Center.
McCain and Howenstein created two box cars as part of a reading railroad theme, which are located outside the center.
Prior to being introduced to the Book Fairy Pantry Project, they had created free libraries in the form of a caboose box outside of their house and a Purdue boilermaker engine which is at Pixie Playhouse.
“This was collaboration about wanting to help the world,” Duhn said.
Children’s books through young adult books can be donated in the Indy Book Project boxes at Akards Hardware in Zionsville and at Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore on 106th and Michigan streets in Zionsville.