Five years ago, Melaney Smith encountered a second-grader who wasn’t looking forward to summer break. The reason? She would lose free access to books! Summer slide, or the decrease in reading achievement over summer vacation, is often simply the result of students not having enough to read at home. Determined to help, Melaney founded Books for Keeps, a nonprofit organization that provides twelve books to each student at participating public schools in Athens and Atlanta, Georgia.
In 2011, Books for Keeps committed to the Clinton Global Initiative to provide 12 books to every student in a school where 90% or more students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.
Books for Keeps has now distributed over 138,000 books to students from pre-k to 12th grade! In 2013, Leslie Hale was hired as Books for Keeps first (and so far, only) employee as the new Executive Director. With Leslie’s assistance, Books for Keeps expanded to seven elementary schools in Athens, GA, one rural elementary school, and one elementary school in Southwest Atlanta in 2014.
Leslie brought Books for Keeps to Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta in 2013 seeking assistance revising their bylaws, which she felt were boilerplate and insufficient for the organization. Scott Ortwein of Alston and Bird volunteered his time and helped Books for Keeps develop a new set of bylaws that were completed in December 2013. Since then, Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta has also assisted Books for Keeps in creating a liability release and advised on potentially accepting a donation of real property.
In reflecting on this new relationship between PBPA and Books for Keeps, Leslie said, “As a small nonprofit, Books for Keeps is limited in its ability to contract for outside assistance on detailed technical matters like legal advice. For that reason the assistance we’ve received from Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta has been invaluable. Without access to the pro bono services of the Partnership there are a lot of ways in which our nonprofit would be flying blind. We are truly grateful to PBPA for the assistance they’ve given us in our short life.”
Thanks to Scott Ortwein of Alston and Bird and Guinevere Christmann of Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice for volunteering their time to assist Books for Keeps!