In Tonawanda, New York, a beacon of hope has been brought to the community through the generosity of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 135L. Tom O’Shei and other union members have distributed 30,000 books for free to families from miles around. This book giveaway is just one example of the community-building efforts that USW Local 135L has undertaken in order to show their commitment to those in need—not only did they provide books, but also diapers, coats, toys, and food.
The response from both children and parents alike was overwhelmingly positive; it’s easy to see why as providing new books for children can open up a world of possibility and give them access to knowledge that will serve them for years to come. The books were not only provided with love but also without censorship or judgment; this could not be further from what is happening in Florida where Governor Ron DeSantis is attempting to weaponize books by prohibiting students’ access until they are vetted according to his politics of hate. It’s outrageous that teachers are facing criminal prosecution, fines, and prison time if they give children unapproved titles!
It’s inspiring stories like this one that makes us realize the power of coming together as a community when we have something worthwhile to offer. Ayrel Evans is a library specialist for Fontana Unified School District who works with diverse backgrounds including those just beginning English or coming from foster homes—she recognizes how powerful books can be in helping individuals learn and grow. She reminds us that “all people should have access to literature,” and it’s clear that USW Local 135L understands how important that sentiment truly is. We can all take away from this story the importance of uplifting our communities rather than tearing them down, no matter how big or small our contributions may be.