Rossville High School alumna Kelli Campbell is giving back to the city that shaped her in her youth by bringing free books to children weekly in the summertime. She travels to the Fairlane Oaks community Tuesdays and Rossville Apartments Thursdays.
Each day, she loads her car completely full of tubs of books at all reading levels. Children can pick two books to take each visit.
"Last summer I gave out 450 books to children at the Rossville Apartments," said Campbell. This is her second summer to give the books away through an independent initiative she calls Rossville Reads. "They loved the books and read them all the time and asked volunteers to read the books."
Campbell said she feels obligated to give back to the city that helped her become the educator she is today.
"It's wonderful for our children to participate in Rossville Reads," said Rossville Elementary School principal Courtney Gadd, who volunteers at the program to read to students. "I like that they see us support them not just in school, but also in the community. It's something to smile about, really. We have amazing folks in Rossville."
In her first visit this summer to Rossville Apartments, Campbell brought 244 books, which Rossville Elementary School teachers and administrators volunteered to read to the students on the playground. The North Georgia YMCA fed the children through its Summer Feeding Program, while each child selected two books to read and keep for their home library.
"It's important for kids to read in the summer months to keep them from falling behind," said Campbell. "That way they have not lost much ground when they return to school in the fall. It's huge to have reading in the home. Since the teachers are volunteering today, the students know their teachers really care and want them to learn."
Even though Campbell is the founder of Rossville Reads, she said she could not operate without donations from the Rossville Alumni Association. She said some donors trade in their books at McKay's and bring Campbell their vouchers so she can purchase children's books there. She also uses donated Barnes & Noble gift cards to buy books.
"It's all been through community support," Campbell said in regards to the program's existence and success. "I knew growing up it was great to be a Rossville Bulldog. We are still taking care of each other. One Rossville Reads donation from an alum came in from Texas."
Campbell said she hopes that in the future someone will donate a van and office space for the program. She would like to have a location where children who live in other areas of Rossville can come to pick up the free books, she explained.