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Academy donates books to foster kids

DULUTH - When children enter the foster care system, often the only things they have are the clothes they are wearing.

To help provide children with clothing, toiletries and school supplies, a nonprofit organization in Duluth allows foster families to visit a resource center stocked with such items. Tuesday, Notre Dame Academy added to the collection of items, delivering more than 1,800 books collected by sixth-graders at the private Catholic school.

"Reading a book is like taking an adventure," said Grant Gardner, 11. "We want foster kids to be able to take an adventure."

The sixth-grade class partnered with the Foster Children's Foundation Inc. Each grade within the elementary and middle schools partners with a nonprofit organization for a service learning project, said Monica Johnson, the school's communications director.

While the book collection was organized by the sixth-graders, each student at the school donated at least one book. The goal was to collect 700 books; the students far exceeded that goal, collecting 1,851 books, Johnson said.

"This is going to allow the kids when they come to just dream and just open their minds to so many subjects," said Suzanne Geske, the foundation's executive director.

The foundation provided supplies to foster children more than 1,000 times in 2005, Geske said. The numbers from 2006 are not yet available, she said.

Mandi Geske, the foundation's administrative assistant, said reading the books will allow the children to see beyond the situations they are in.

"Most books have some obstacle that is overcome by the main character," Mandi Geske said.

Several of the sixth-graders reiterated that books are a great outlet for people who need to escape the real world.

"A book is kind of like a different world," said Lyndsie Pizzarelli, 12. "They help you leave the real world and go to a fantasy world."

Ali Cole, 12, said she and her classmates collected books for children of all ages. The books had to be gently used or new, not colored in or torn.

The school partnered with the Foster Children's Foundation after Julie Derucki, the assistant principal of Notre Dame's elementary and middle school campuses, met Suzanne Geske at a Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce event. The Academy also hosted a Christmas party for younger foster children, and the Geskes talked to students about the foster care system.

"It is especially rewarding to watch our students lead with literacy and give the gift of being embraced by a story," Derucki said in a news release. "If we don't expose students to the needs of others in our community, how can we expect them to ever get passionately involved to help solve those needs?"