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Big Rig Books: Driver delivers books to underprivileged kids

By on July 1, 2013
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John Gervase • Driving 9 years • Fort Myers, Fla. & Chicago, Ill.

When I was younger, I did everything I could to avoid reading a book. I remember being assigned The Great Gatsby and going down to the school library to watch the movie.

I grew up in a bubble, thinking that if you want to read, you just go get a book. I thought any child in school would be able to read. How wrong I was.

I started Big Rig Books in 2012 after attending a benefit about the importance of children having their own books at home. I researched literacy and poverty, and  I learned that many families can barely put enough food on the table, so the idea of buying books and encouraging reading is not even on their radar.

That’s when I realized I was in a position to help. I always wanted to drive a truck. My full-time job is landlord, but I always had the desire to drive, so I started doing it part time in 2004. In 2009, I started Haulin’ for Humanity, a nonprofit that provided low-cost trucking services to other nonprofits and churches.

By 2012, my focus shifted after working with charities that provide food to underprivileged kids. That’s when I realized my truck was the perfect way to get books into kids’ hands.

For months my wife and I struggled, unsuccessfully asking literacy organizations for help. Then our church held a book drive, and we received more than 1,500 books in two weeks! That’s when we faced our biggest — and most unexpected — hurdle. We reached out to schools, but the lack of response was disheartening.

We kept trying. Eventually, we met Ruthie Lohmeyer, an incredible woman from the Lee County school system in Fort Myers, Fla. She introduced us to the principals of schools that were most in need of our books. That was the break we needed.

We made our first delivery in January 2013, and now we deliver to eight schools in the Fort Myers area. We also deliver to eight schools in Chicago. (We live half of the year in Fort Myers and half in Chicago.)

The most incredible part of this whole thing has been the response from the people who “get” what we’re doing. We heard one story from a mother of an autistic 5-year-old girl who said her daughter almost never speaks. The day that Big Rig Books was at her school, they pulled into the parking lot and the little girl’s face lit up. She just yelled “Books! Books! Books!” That’s why we do what we do.

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One Comment

  1. Bob Scallan

    July 2, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    I had the honor of coordinating three Big Rig visits to Fort Myers Middle Academy, and they were truly amazing visits. Our students were excited to have the opportunity to walk through John’s truly unique mobile library and pick any book they wanted. We saw students who, much like John in his childhood, avoid books find the excitement of reading and discovering great adventures between the covers of the books.
    Fort Myers Middle looks forward to having John and his big rig return again next year and will work to find ways to also help replenish his supply of books.

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