TOTE Alaska and Northern Air Cargo partnered to donate in-kind shipping and delivery of 30,000 books to students off the Alaska road system, as part of a nationwide program to provide free books to remote communities during the pandemic. TOTE is managing the BookWaves program for Alaska and delivery logistics to the selected rural communities.
“We saw this as an opportunity to give back to Alaska and the communities that support our business every day,” said TOTE Vice President and Alaska General Manager Alex Hofeling. “Getting books into the hands of students in remote areas has never been more important than during these challenging times.”
BookWaves, a coalition of U.S. shipping companies, non-profit organizations and unions, was launched by Pi Beta Phi, the American Federation of Teachers, Transportation Institute and First Book. The coalition is funding the purchase of books to support distance learning and create home libraries. TOTE employees volunteered, one family at a time, to help sort and box up the books for delivery to the villages.
“Our goal was to focus on the communities we could have the greatest impact. TOTE and our partners were ideally positioned to help get books to the farthest reaches of the supply chain,” said Milena Sevigny, TOTE Community Relations Program Manager and who spearheaded BookWaves for Alaska. “Increasing literacy helps strengthen communities in many ways and TOTE is proud to bring this program to rural Alaska.”
The age range of the books is pre-K through high school and includes culturally inclusive Alaska themes, such as Molly of Denali, as well as mainstream reading. Between Northern Air Cargo and partners Ryan Air and Wright Air, about 40 villages in the Lower Kuskokwim and Yukon School Districts as well as in the Northwest Arctic and North Slope Boroughs will receive free books.
“While urban students who are distance learning have access to a library or bookstore, that’s not the case in rural Alaska and many families here can’t afford books,” said Gary Watson, a Bethel city employee who has volunteered to distribute the books in his community. “I’ve delivered a few books already and the kids have been really excited. I have to hand it to TOTE for making this happen.”
“Literacy is the core foundation of any society,” said Gideon Garcia, Northern Air Cargo General Manager. “Northern Air Cargo is proud to deliver free books to rural students because we believe active readers become strong leaders who build strong communities.”