By Lisa Tang
Local residents can support Operation Read and promote literacy by eating their way through the week: Tuesday at Jocelyn's Donuts; Wednesday at Chili's, Friday at Queen St Grill, and Saturday at Operation Read's all-day pancake supper.
With help from local food businesses, Operation Read hopes to raise $30,000—$8,000 more than last year—to continue purchasing books for Palestine's youngest students.
To make books more available to children, organizers also want to purchase enough of them to stock book baskets and outdoor free libraries, installed throughout the city.
Operation Read took on this new goal after Palestine school board member Davi Killion-Ingram, who started an outdoor free library next to Killion’s Collision, asked Operation Read board members for help. Operation Read now partners with 20 organizations and businesses that want free libraries—and about 30 that want indoor crates.
Welding students in Palestine and Westwood will build the outdoor boxes and crates with donated materials.
On Tuesday, Jocelyn's sold red Operation Read donuts by the dozens and raised $500 for literacy, and will sell them again next week. Chili's donated 15% of its sales Wednesday, and will do so again next week. Queen St Grill promises to donate 15% of its sales next Friday.
The pancake supper will run from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Palestine Senior Center next Saturday. Volunteers from the schools will cook and serve pancakes.
Tickets to Operation Read's Pancake Fundraiser are $6 for adults (10 and up) and $3 for children (3-10). Family passes (up to five people) are $20. Tickets may be purchased until Friday at the Palestine YMCA, Palestine Toyota, and Texas Farm Bureau. Tickets also will be sold at the door.
Leaders of Kiwanis of Palestine, Citizens on Patrol, Concerned Citizens Action Group of Palestine, UNIDOS en Palestine, Palestine Negro Business & Professional Women’s Club, and Altrusa Club of Anderson County have helped plan the event. Volunteers from the Palestine Lions and Rotary Clubs will also help with Saturday's dinner.
Many Palestine businesses have again donated food and supplies to serve 2,000 people at the pancake supper: Denny’s, Walmart, Whataburger, Sonic, Deanfoods, and Borden Dairy.
No matter where you decide to eat, the money will be well-spent.
“Where else can you feed your family for $20 and have that money go toward buying books for your kids and others in the community?” Operation Read board member Jeff Atkinson said.
Last year, Operation Read raised enough money to buy four new books each for 1,800 students — all of Palestine's students in the pre-Kindergarten, Kindergarten, first, second, and third grades.
Palestine's public schools have a poverty rate exceeding 50 percent.
“The books are a highlight to the kids' lives,” said Atkinson, who recalled a child who couldn't believe he did not have to return his book.
Atkinson said the free libraries will provide resources for students during the summer. In July, both Palestine and Westwood Schools started their own summer reading programs. Busses picked up Palestine students and brought them to locations throughout town.
Operation Read is a coalition of community organizations promoting literacy. Educators from Palestine ISD, Westwood ISD, University Academy, and Christian Heritage Academy work with Operation Read to raise community awareness.
For information on tickets or how to help, call Atkinson at 903-724-5358. Send donations to Operation Read to Tom Watson, CPA, 106 Cypress Drive, Palestine, Texas 75801.