Dave Obee: No Times Colonist book drive this year, but we have ideas

Dave ObeeWe need to make it official: The Times Colonist book drive, a vital part of our lives since 1998, will not happen this year. COVID-19 has made it unthinkable.

We had planned to have the event in June, but postponed it when the pandemic took hold in March. We had hoped for a new date in August, but that was wishful thinking. The risk is still strong. As much as we love books, and as much as we love the book drive itself, the coronavirus is simply too powerful. The risk to our volunteers, donors and buyers would be too great.

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Our next book drive will be in May or June 2021 — the pandemic permitting.

The cancellation of the drive takes us back, way back, to a meeting we had in January 1998. The provincial government had just cut funding for school libraries, so we discussed ways we could help them. In that meeting the book drive was born. In later years we started giving money to literacy projects as well, and we created a non-profit organization, the Times Colonist Literacy Society, to run the book drive.

We made about $20,000 in the first year, and a bit more the year after that. Then things started to happen. In 22 years, our disbursements for literacy work have totaled $5,612,100. Half of that money came from the book drive, with the rest from special fundraising days, individual donations, and the provincial government.

The province’s contribution comes via Decoda Literacy Solutions, and is based on the amount we can raise in the community.

The need to raise money is as strong as ever, and we can’t let a small matter like a pandemic stop us. Our goal is to come up with other ways to raise the money — ideas that do not involve crowding people into small, dangerous places, but still bring in enough money to help us make a difference.

We have several ideas in mind, and you will be reading and hearing more about these intiatives in the weeks to come. We are determined to raise money. Just before the pandemic hit, we gave out $285,000; we might not come close to that amount this year, but we will give it our best shot.

After all, the schools, the community organizations and the literacy projects are every bit as important as they were before COVID-19 shut down so much of our community.

Our goal is to bring back the book drive, bigger and better than ever in 2021.

In the meantime, we are not going to rest. We want the schools and the literacy organizations to get the money they need to keep doing their great work.

dobee@timescolonist.com

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