As one of the recipients of the 2016 Jefferson Awards, Bexley Middle School seventh-grader Meagan Warren said she’s proud to be recognized for her efforts to promote literacy.
She donates books to disadvantaged students and homeless people children through the nonprofit organization she founded, Books for Bedtime. In the two years since its founding, Meagan has collected more than 22,000 books through book drives and donations, which she personally delivers.
“I work on it year-round, but the school year is our busiest time because we donate to schools. We also go to homeless shelters,” she said. “We mainly concentrate on the Columbus area, but we have gone as far as Cleveland and Dayton.”
Meagan said her passion for reading gave her the idea to start Books for Bedtime in the summer of 2014. She was 11 years old and had just finished fifth grade at Maryland Elementary School.
“It started when I was upstairs in my room reading a book” and ran out of time to finish it before bedtime, she said. “I went downstairs to beg my mom for more time to read.”
Meagan’s mother, Shannon, reminded her how fortunate she was, because many children don’t have access to books.
“I started thinking about ways I could try to help that,” Meagan said. “I realize there wasn’t enough people working on this in the community.”
She began seeking donations, with an initial goal of collecting 500 books by the end of 2014. But she ended up collecting more than 8,000 books in eight months, with donations streaming in not only from Bexley but from Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas and other states.
Donations often come through word of mouth, she said.
“Everybody in Bexley seems to know our address,” she said. “A lot of it comes from spreading the word.”
With the support of her mother and grandparents, Books for Bedtime became a nonprofit organization in May 2015. Meagan has partnered with organizations such as St. Vincent Family Center, the Ethiopian Tewahedo Social Services, Neighborhood Services Inc. and the Service for the World Club at Ohio State University.
“We do have a lot of volunteers who come in and help,” she said. “We have a lot of Girl Scout troops who come in and help.”
Meagan was among five central Ohio residents who were recognized with Jefferson Awards this year. The 2016 Jefferson Awards were presented by WBNS-10TV, Schoedinger Funeral and Cremation Services and Lifeline of Ohio to recognize individuals who do extraordinary things in their community without expecting anything in return. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Sen. Robert Taft Jr. of Ohio created the national Jefferson Awards in 1972.
In addition to reading and donating books, Meagan said she enjoys taking part in field hockey games and playing with her leash-trained bunny, Curiosity.
She also is a junior docent at the Thurber House Museum and a member of the Junior Mensa Honor Society. She said she plans to save the $500 she received as part of the Jefferson Award for college, and has plans to one day become a patent attorney.
“I’m probably going to put it toward college because I want to go to Princeton,” she said.
For more information about Books for Bedtime and to donate, visit booksforbedtimenonprofit.org