LAKEHURST – The problem not only displaced students and staff for months, but destroyed property as well—especially books.
Lakehurst Elementary School students spent their first four months of this school year dispersed throughout the borough and Manchester Township schools as their school was remediated for mold. While a GoFundMe page was established back in September to raise money to help replace items and cover some clean-up costs, a Joint Base Maguire-Dix-Lakehurst parent, whose children attend the school, reached out to another organization for help.
Operation Paperback was started in 1999 when CMS Rick Honeywell was deployed to Kuwait for a four-month stint. There was no recreation of any kind, so Honeywell’s wife Chrissy sent a huge care package of candy, games and books. Her father, Dan Bowers, pulled paperbacks from his collection to send over, and encouraged others to do the same. Soon, Rick Honeywell’s squadron had 500 books and needed to build shelves.
Today, the bookshelves in the Lakehurst Elementary School and many of its classrooms are empty. Mold claimed most of them.
Lakehurst Superintendent Loren Fuhring said back in August that the mold remediation crew put it to her this way: treat this situation as if it were a fire. Everything is lost.
So while Operation Paperback mostly focuses on getting books into the hands of soldiers overseas, Chrissy Honeywell believed the school, which does serve military families in the area, should receive the Operation’s help.
“The school needs children’s books from PreK up through Junior High. They are asking for new/like new/[very] gently used books. They do [not] want musty books from someone’s basement — they are trying to avoid any future problems with mold after the experience they’ve been through,” Chrissy Honeywell wrote in an email to The Manchester Times.
The response, to say the least, has been overwhelming. She didn’t have an exact number of books collected thus far, but said books are being mailed directly the parent who reached out to her, and also dropped off at the Community Center in the borough, where the parent retrieves them and takes them back to base, where volunteers have been sorting them.
“I have been blown away by the response,” Chrissy Honeywell added.
Those who would like to donate can write to Chrissy Honeywell at email@example.com. She will put them in touch with the contact for this book drive.
Since its beginning, Operation Paperback has sent more than 3 million books to deployed troops.
“In general, people of all ages/walks of life are part of Operation Paperback. Our volunteers range from school kids/scout groups/church groups all the way up through businesses and working adults to retired folks. Many of our volunteers are ex-military or have family members in the military. But the one thing they all have in common is a love of reading. Every one of our volunteers can’t imagine a life without books!” Chrissy Honeywell wrote.