Making a difference through word and deed

By Tess R., ninth-grader and Habitat volunteer

When I was 12 years old, my older brother, Jake, spent a summer doing construction work for Beaches Habitat for Humanity. Every night, he walked through the back door dripping with sweat and dirt, but he always had a smile on his face.

I wanted to be like my big brother, but I was too young to work on the houses. I thought to myself, “What could I do to help the families that move into Habitat houses?” I brainstormed ideas with my mom and volunteer coordinator Sarah Rutkowski and decided that I wanted to help the children who moved into Habitat homes. I chose books as a way to do that.

I created Project Storybook, which donates baskets of new books to Habitat homeowner children.

At first, I purchased books with money donated by close friends and family. In a little more than a year, I ended up donating about 200 new books to 40 children during home dedications. Titles included “Hop on Pop,” “The Magic Treehouse” series and “Charlotte’s Web.”

After seeing the children’s faces when they received the books, I was encouraged to grow Project Storybook. I talked with First Book, a national nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., that partners with schools and programs like Project Storybook to provide brand new books to kids from low-income households.

Today, I am excited to be working with Beaches Habitat, St. Augustine/St Johns County Habitat and Habitat Orlando. I think that the greatest motivation for me is watching the little kids as they open their bags, peek inside to see what books they just received, and then seeing a huge smile spread across their faces.

According to Reading Is Fundamental, about 60 percent of poor children do not have books to read at home. Project Storybook is a great way for kids who are too young to build Habitat houses to get involved with their local Habitat affiliates — and to put books into the hands and the homes of Habitat kids.

To learn more about Project Storybook, email