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Dunwoody book drive benefits disadvantaged children

DUNWOODY, Ga. – On Dec. 14, Dunwoody residents turned out in a big way to help increase literacy and give children a gift they won’t soon forget.

Teachers and students from Austin and Dunwoody Elementary schools, along with members of the Dunwoody community, gathered enough books so that each of the 700 students at Oak Cliff Traditional Theme School in Doraville could take home five books of their choice.

The ambitious project netted more than 5,000 books, most donated by Dunwoody citizens or purchased from various discount retailers and resale stores like Goodwill. So many books were gathered that the library also got a refresh of its inventory, and teachers replaced worn books that were in the classrooms.

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About 97% of Oak Cliff’s population qualifies for free or reduced lunch, according to the school’s counselor Denise Quintera, and many of the students’ parents are first-generation Americans.

“Many students and parents are unfamiliar with the protocols and the rights that we all take for granted,” Quintera said. “The Dunwoody community for many years has been assisting with providing the kind of help and support that these families need.”

This year, however, Dunwoody students, teachers from Austin and Dunwoody elementary schools, parents, organizations and sports teams, along with Doraville Police and city officials, stepped up in a huge way with the Winter Wonderland Book Drive.

“The vision of a Winter Wonderland where students were provided books and a book buddy [a stuffed animal] became a reality because of the amazing community support,” Oak Cliff Interim Principal Ann Culbreath said. “Not only did we have donations from our surrounding communities, but we also had volunteers who worked tirelessly throughout the day.”

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Quintera said the Dunwoody community used “resourceful and creative” methods to gather the books – from something as simple as looking through their own bookshelves to distributing flyers throughout their neighborhoods to combing the offerings at Goodwill and Salvation Army to find age-appropriate books. In return, the Oak Cliff students created laminated bookmarks and delivered them to the students at the participating schools.

“We can’t serve the Dunwoody community as well as they serve us, but we can thank them for their help in our own way,” she said. “It matches with our school motto, which is ‘Enter to learn and exit to serve.’”