Book drives and bike shops

May 14, 2015

Mitch Marrison, retail program coordinator + Vanessa McCracken, owner of Sunnyside Bicycles

Here at PeopleForBikes we’re fortunate to have the support of more than 1,000 bicycle retailer members nationwide. Through these bike shop supporters we’ve collected tens of thousands of new individual members, helped fund local projects and have had the opportunity put more people on bicycles. We even get the opportunity to hear about some of the amazing things that bike shops are doing for their local communities. Recently, Sunnyside Bicycles in Fresno, CA held a book drive to help bring in donations for a local group, started by 8-year-old Danay Ferguson. Owner Vanessa McCracken gave us an inside look at the experience and how her customers, “Sunnysiders” as she calls them, came together to donate thousands of books.

McCracken: Bikes, people, and community: everything we do at Sunnyside Bicycles boils down to those three words. As a bike shop, we love being a catalyst for bringing people together through cycling. Watching strangers become lifelong friends and families grow closer on our rides brings us true joy. And nothing brings us greater satisfaction than being able to give back to our community. But rarely have all three of these loves come together so dynamically as during our recent Reading Heart book drive.

When I read about Danay Ferguson starting her business at age eight and becoming the youngest person in Fresno County history to do so, I knew immediately that I wanted to support and encourage her. Whatever she was selling, I was buying! Then I read on to learn that her business was actually a charity and that she collected books to give away to the less fortunate, and kids in hospitals, who might like to escape into a good book. Now I was not only impressed, but also inspired. I immediately organized a book drive for Danay and hoped to entice our customers to donate books by giving away Electra cruisers to two lucky donors.

Danay Ferguson, founder of the Reading Heart Book Drive

Now, we have some amazing customers. I know everyone says this and thinks this, but ours are extra amazing! They’ve truly embraced our “bikes, people, community” philosophy and wholeheartedly support all the little charitable drives we do. In a few short years we’ve collected over a thousand blankets for the homeless, truckloads of food for the community food bank, hundreds of toys for Toys for Tots, raised thousands of dollars for the MS Society–the list goes on. And yet we were still completely unprepared for what was about to happen.

Danay and I had a meeting (after school, of course – she’s ambitious AND smart!), and we set a goal of collecting 600 books during the month of March. I was nervous as we set the box out on March 1. I did not want to miss our goal and disappoint this sweet little girl! But our awesome community of customers came through like always and the books started pouring in. And when I say pouring in, I mean it. We were getting 100-600 books a day. We reached our goal by day three. People were bringing in hundreds of books at a time. One man brought an entire full-size pickup truck bed full of books to donate (all loose and unboxed, by the way). Some people were even going out and purchasing hundreds of dollars worth of brand new books to donate. The books completely took over our small shop and the response was beyond anything we could have possibly imagined.

Danay and Vanessa pick the winners of the bike raffle

I loved seeing Danay’s reaction when she came to draw the bike winners and pick up the books on April 1. It was pretty special, no doubt about it. Watching her jump into the big bin full of raffle entries to mix them up and excitedly draw the winners’ names really showed how big her heart is. She was so excited to call the winners and tell them they won new bikes. She just truly enjoys giving. The best part is seeing what she has been able to do afterward, as a direct result of the book drive. When it was all said and done, 6,000 books were donated by Sunnysiders! Shortly after, Reading Heart donated 4000 books to the local children’s hospital to help establish a library for its patients. Danay took her Reading Heart book cart from room to room and got to meet and talk to the kids and share her love of reading with them. Each child was allowed to pick a book to keep for themselves and she’s not done! Even after the 4,000 that were donated there was still an entire garage worth of books left. From this, Reading Heart is working on creating a mobile library as well as a few other equally ambitious projects, so that Danay can share her love of reading with everyone and in her words, “eliminate book poverty.”

We’ve always said “bikes build community” and never has this connection been so evident than through this book drive. The way our customers came together to support this little girl’s dream was humbling and I’ve never been prouder or more grateful to get to do what I do!

A big thanks to Vanessa and the rest of the crew over at Sunnyside Bicycles!

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