Sac State student organizes book drive for Camp Fire victims


Robyn Dobson - The State Hornet

Professor Celeste Roseberry-McKibbin and Sac State communication sciences and disorders major Marisa Dix sit on the floor at Folsom Hall counting and sorting through book donations. Dix has been helping Roseberry-McKibbin for about a year after hearing about Roseberry-McKibbin’s Love Talk Read program during one of her classes.

Robyn Dobson

Mary Persons, a Sacramento State communication sciences and disorders major, was riding her bike to campus like any other morning when she noticed thick smoke cloaking the sky.

Later, she would discover that the smoke was from the Camp Fire, one of the deadliest fires in California history, which sparked Nov. 8 of last year. Over the course of more than two weeks, the fire tore through Butte County, demolishing buildings, forests and the town of Paradise, which she frequented during her youth.

After seeing the devastation left in the wake of the fire, she heard that most of the public schools and the local library in Paradise burned down. Persons reached out to Sac State communication sciences and disorders professor Celeste Roseberry-McKibbin to organize a book drive for survivors.

“I just wanted to help,” Persons said. “I heard stories from one of my friends getting out of Paradise with her boys, with the fireballs going off around her. It was really scary hearing it firsthand. I mean, that’s a childhood friend.”

RELATED: Nearby Camp Fire prompts closures, other action from Sac State

Roseberry-McKibbin is the founder of a program called Love Talk Read, an organization that aims to put books in the hands of impoverished children around the world. Since its inception in 2008, Love Talk Read has donated more than 213,000 books to at-risk children and families, according to Roseberry-McKibbin.

Roseberry-McKibbin said she often encourages students in her classes to donate books, which gave Persons the idea for the book drive.

“I was really impressed with Mary’s initiative and courage because we didn’t know each other that well,” Roseberry-McKibbin said. “She had hustle and I liked that.”

Together, Persons and Roseberry-McKibbin created a book drive that started early last December, with a beginning goal of 5,000 books. By the end of the month, 4,000 books had already been donated by students and community members.

Behind the scenes, Sac State communication sciences and disorders majors Marisa Dix and Kirstin FitzGerald have each spent nearly 20 hours sitting on the floors of Folsom Hall, sorting through thousands of donated books.

“It’s so great what we are able to do,” FitzGerald said. “They really have lost everything. So if a book can bring a smile to a child’s face, it’s all worth it.”

Once the books are counted, they are stored in a broom closet in Folsom Hall until Persons loads up her Jeep and personally drives the books to Paradise with the help of her boyfriend. The books are then put into a warehouse that teachers can visit and pick out ones they like.

Seven thousand books have been donated so far, helping fulfill Paradise’s immediate need for books.

“I did not expect we’d be this successful,” Roseberry-McKibbin said. “I think at the end of the day, you touch people’s hearts with a local tragedy. We all breathed that smoke. We all heard the headlines. I think that emotional touch is a big reason we had such a huge response.”

For book donations to Love Talk Read, a drop-off box is located in the lobby of Folsom Hall. Contributors can also contact Roseberry-McKibbin for larger donations.