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Ethan Blake will take his friends along for a ride on his Essex County Bookmobile this summer to prove the idea that one man's used book is another man's treasure.
It is a simple idea, said Blake: solicit people in West Orange and the surrounding communities for their used and unread books, and bring them to underprivileged kids in need.
“I have always heard about young kids -- high schoolers and all that -- that start nonprofits while they are still in high school, while they have free time,” said Blake, a senior at the West Orange High School. “I thought it would be a good thing to do during the summer.
“This is something that could actually have an effect and really impact people who are in need.”
Blake set his sights on bringing the books to Newark through the nonprofit Newark Now. He chose to focus on Newark after a friend of his had related to him how many classrooms in Newark only have a few books for entire classrooms.
“There was a lack of resources for what was needed for the class,” said Blake.
And the books will not merely be handed off to an organization. Through Newark Now, Blake and his friends will bring the books personally to block parties in Newark and hand them out during the summer. Blake said he and his friends will act as librarians at these events, suggesting certain books to people.
Blake will be helped by fellow high school seniors Harry Kaplan, Jude Poku, Dan Campbell, Sai Madalap, and recent graduate from Columbia High School in South Orange Maya Nitzberg.
Kaplan said it was an easy decision to jump on board with the bookmobile.
"This is the thing I really love: I love helping out the community,” said Kaplan. “This sounded like a great idea. ... This can really help enhance the community’s experience as a whole and help bring books into some people’s lives.”
Poku, who already does fundraising and service projects to aid other countries, said what really enticed him to get involved was that the books will be helping people so close to home.
“Why don’t I just help out with something here at home in Essex County with my friends?” Poku said he had asked himself when he heard about Blake’s idea. “I thought it would be a fun experience.”
The books have already started to come in. The Montclair Book Center recently donated a few dozen books, and more donations will be coming in this week from other bookstores.
“There is a bit of a buzz,” said Kaplan. “People locally are excited about this so I think it will get good results.”
Got books? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and the Essex County Bookmobile will come to your house and clean out your used and unread books.