Member of the Dumas Economic Development Corporation (DEDC) Board of Directors, Pat Sims, presented a check for $2,200 Thursday to Kinsey Bellar, kindergarten teacher at Green Acres Elementary School and head of Storybridge Dumas, an organization dedicated to promoting literacy by providing books to children who do not have them.
The money will go to help pay for a trailer that Bellar will use to transport books to and from the book events she and her organization put on in the elementary schools of the Dumas Independent School District (DISD). "It is really exciting," said Bellar. "We can take more books. We have been transporting them in people's cars. Now we have this big trailer. We can load all the books up and take them to the event. It is a big blessing to me."
Last year, the organization's first in Dumas, Bellar put on a book event in every elementary school in the district. She was able to give away more than 6,000 books to 980 students. The events are a celebration of books. The children listen to readings by teachers. At the end, they get to go home with books of their own. According to Bellar, many students in the DISD come from homes that do not have a single book. She says studies show that having books in the home makes a positive difference in the educational and social future of children. Plus, the children love the books. She says the events are more popular than even she had imagined. This year, she is increasing both the number of events and the number of books she is giving away. "It is awesome. This year, we upped our book count from five books per child to seven. We want to go to all five elementary schools in the fall and all five again in the spring."
Last year, many of the books were donated. This year, Bellar says, she has received grants from Valero, the Dumas Noon Lions Club, the Dumas Rotary Club, Walmart, 69th District Attorney David Green, and others to help her cause, and she has been able to purchase all the books she will give away. "It has been really fun to set bigger goals and see how everything plays out. The community has been really supportive."
The DEDC awards Community Grants to local non-profit organizations to help fund projects that improve the quality of life for people in Moore County. Among the organizations that have received grants so far this year have been Dumas Education and Social Ministries and Moore County Development, Inc., in addition to Storybridge.
Storybridge began in Amarillo in 2016. Chandra Perkins, an educator, saw a need for books in the homes of the children she taught. She began collecting books and giving them away, initially, on a small scale. The program proved popular and grew rapidly. By the end of two years, she had given away 50,000 books, and she was ready to move beyond Amarillo. Kinsey Bellar and her husband, Marcus, a vice principal at Dumas High School, were friends of Perkins, and so when Perkins wanted to expand into Dumas, Kinsey jumped on board and agreed to lead the effort. Andrea Cox, principal at Green Acres, added her support, and the program took off.