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Levi Kuhl poses with the more than 1,000 books he has collected after putting a request on Facebook seeking donations of children’s books to give to the local food shelves. He’s holding the one book he can’t part with — donated by his grandmother and filled with stories read to him when he was younger. Julie Buntjer/Daily Globe

Story time with Levi

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WORTHINGTON — What began as a local child’s quest to bring reading enjoyment to less fortunate children has blossomed into an incredible outpouring of support from people across Nobles County.

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Ten-year-old Levi Kuhl of Worthington decided earlier this summer to share some of the books he’d both enjoyed and outgrown. When he stacked them up, there were 15 in all. Enough … but not enough to make a big impact for children who don’t have any books.

So, with his mom’s permission, Levi posted a note on Melanie Kuhl’s Facebook page: “Hi, my name is Levi Kuhl and I need your help with my 4-H project. I want to help put books in the hands of needy kids. I am donating 15 books that I have already enjoyed to our local food shelf. I would like to be able to give 500 books by the end of July.

“This is where I need your help. If you have already enjoyed or outgrown any children’s books in your home, I would like to gather them from you. I would be willing to pick them up at your home or you can drop them off at mine. I will keep you updated on my progress.”

“Thank you for your help — and Thank You Mom for letting me use your Facebook.”

That posting was put on the social network on July 3, and within four days, a new post was written by Levi: “Just finished counting and wanted to give you my total so far — 785 books. I was hoping to be able to give 500, but wow! Thank you to the community of Worthington for helping me help kids. What a great place to live. I will continue to take your donations and I’ve changed my goal to 1,000 books.”

By the end of the week, Levi had exceeded not only his initial goal, but his new goal of 1,000 children’s books. As of Tuesday, he’d collected 1,356 books — causing him to raise his goal once more, to 1,500 books.

As a member of the Elk Tip Toppers 4-H Club, Levi is conducting the book collection and donation as a citizenship project. He is documenting his efforts with plans to create a booklet to enter at the Nobles County Fair in just a few weeks.

Melanie Kuhl, a former 4-H’er and now 4-H mom, said just about anything can be a 4-H project — and Levi’s decision to donate his books fit right in with the community service effort.

“You can’t get rid of books because they’re so wonderful,” she said. “We’ve had our books forever — we’ve enjoyed them so much and we figured other people were in the same boat as us.”

Levi thought if people who visited the local food shelf couldn’t afford to put food on the table for their family, they probably couldn’t afford to put books into the hands of their children.

“I think I’m going to split them up between the Manna Food Pantry and the (Worthington) Christian Church food pantry,” Levi said, adding that he plans to deliver the books at the end of this month. That leaves more time to continue accepting donated children’s books.

The Kuhls already spoke with Manna Food Pantry coordinator Linda Sanchez about the donation, and Melanie said Sanchez is excited to get the books.

“Some people have donated books in the past and they are always looking for new books,” Melanie said.

The books collected range from those that can be read to newborns to books suitable for fourth and fifth graders, said Levi, who will be a fifth grader at Worthington Middle School this fall.

As the books have come in from some of Melanie’s teacher friends and other acquaintances, Levi has read a few of them before putting them back in the donation box. There was one, however, that he’s decided he wants to keep.

The book, “Harper Collins Treasure of Picture Book Classics” was donated by Levi’s grandmother — and happens to be the book she read to him when he was younger.

“It was in the pile, and then he looked at it, put it back and took it again,” said Melanie. “He said, ‘Gosh, I don’t think I can give this one away.’”

Levi said he was surprised by how his simple request for books has grown into stacks and boxes of children’s books on the living room floor in his family’s house.

He hopes the recipients of the books will enjoy them.

“I think they’re going to be happy because they can start to read a very good book,” Levi said.

“They can keep it forever and, if they choose, they might give it back to the food pantry — it might cycle many times,” added Melanie.

Levi plans to be at the Manna Food Pantry on July 30 to help show children where the donated books are — and perhaps help in their book selection — and hopes to do the same at the Worthington Christian Church food shelf.

To donate children’s books, contact Melanie at 360-5558.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

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Julie Buntjer
Julie Buntjer joined the Daily Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington and graduate of Worthington High School, then-Worthington Community College and South Dakota State University, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. At the Daily Globe, Julie covers the agricultural beat, as well as Nobles County government, watersheds, community news and feature stories. In her spare time, she enjoys needlework (cross-stitch and hardanger embroidery), reading, travel, fishing and spending time with family. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at www.farmbleat.areavoices.com.
(507) 376-7330
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