Book distribution at the Coralville Food Pantry, December 2020

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Friends of the Coralville Library purchased and distributed books to children at Coralville Food Pantry instead of the Coralville Community Meal, which was substantially altered due to COVID restrictions.


Friends of Coralville Public Library


December 21, 2020


Educational use only, no other permissions given.


email: Good afternoon! I wanted to express my gratitude once more for the very generous donation that allowed me to purchase books for distribution at the Coralville Community Food Pantry. This year was a little bit different. ( as most of 2020 has been) For the last few years, we have distributed the books at the December Community Meal. We have found this to be the best because of the number of families with children that attend. Kids can come up to the table and make the very hard decision of which wrapped book to choose. 😊 Historically, we have bought books that are geared toward age or grade level – baby books all the way up to 6th or 7th grade chapter books. This year, however, John Boller and I thought it would be best to pass out the books on a Saturday morning from the Pantry. Because of COVID precautions, I also decided not to wrap the books since I would need a number of volunteers to do so. The Food Pantry has also had to change procedures due to COVID. Currently, there is a temporary plastic tent with holes for windows attached to the front of the building. Because of COVID, clients cannot go into the Pantry anymore to choose the foods they need. The new process is time-consuming and hard work. Each family gets in line in the parking lot ( a walk-up window is available for people without a car), each car waits in line in the parking lot, a Pantry volunteer goes out to the car and takes the order, another volunteer shops and bags the items and then the groceries are passed out through the windows. Brian and I helped pass bags out through the windows which then gave us the opportunity to ask if they had a child or children (grandchildren) that they would like to give the gift of a new book to. Because this year has been so difficult for students and parents, I opted for books that would still promote literacy but would be fun as well. Puzzle, maze, word search books, sticker books and coloring books that could be done by a child alone or with a sibling or a parent. By the time the Pantry closed at 1:00, every single book was gone.

So, you might be thinking, why did she need to go through the process and all these details. I will try to explain. Truthfully, this was more than just happily giving away books. I was overwhelmed by the need in our community. I know that numbers and I have volunteered at the Pantry for many years but this just really felt different. Maybe it was that the sky was a dull grey and it was cold enough to feel like it could snow but never did. Just a cold, damp feeling. Maybe it was that the line of cars never seemed to slow down or that the volunteers were so determined in their shopping the shelves. I was so proud of everyone that day. The people that were brave enough to step up to that window, collect their food and say over and over “thank you so much”. So much dignity even though maybe inside they felt despair. The volunteers who worked quick and efficient but never so much so that they didn’t take time to chat and say “thank you for coming”. And then, almost with a child-like excitement, parents pore over the books trying to decide if their “Boy – 6 years” would like the shark book or the sticker book better. A young mom with 3 boys was delighted and said she would have picked out the same exact books for her boys. Maybe it was that everyone seemed so grateful to have something to put out for Christmas or the couple that sadly and almost apologetically said, “we never thought we would be here. When things get better, we are going to come back and volunteer.”

I wanted you to know that although a book or two may seem like a small gesture and I guess to some it is. But, on Saturday morning, it was so much more. It was a helping hand, it was a parent to parent understanding of the bigger picture. It was a smile and a wish we could do more but knowing that we all have to start somewhere.

Thank you again. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and here’s to the start of a New Year. Melissa






Coralville, Iowa




Friends of Coralville Public Library, “Book distribution at the Coralville Food Pantry, December 2020,” Coralville Digital History Library, accessed September 24, 2022,

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