A group of fourth graders at Tarver Elementary in Thornton collected more than 7,000 books to help Boulder Valley School District students impacted by the Marshall fire.
The approximately 75 Tarver fourth graders who were slated to complete a community service project last spring quickly formulated plans to restock home libraries for displaced fire victims, said Social Emotional Learning Specialist Lisa Dietel.
The Marshall fire destroyed 1,084 residential structures and damaged another 149 homes countywide, which were valued at more than $500 million, according to the Boulder County Assessor's Office.
The historic fire, which set a new state record for damaged structures, also caused an immediate outpouring of support for the Tarver students’ book drive.
“We probably collected 200 or 300 books on the first day,” Dietel said.
Originally planned to run throughout February, the effort ended earlier than anticipated due to the sheer number of donations.
“We had already reached about 5,000 books after two weeks and we were running out of space,” she said. “We stopped counting at 5,500 books.”
To publicize the book collection, Tarver students produced classroom posters and made commercials that aired during daily school announcements.
“We had some other kids brainstorm ideas on how we were going to manage these materials as we were receiving those books,” she said.
After spring break, community volunteers jumped on board to secure a moving truck to deliver the piles of reading materials to Boulder Valley School District.
As the last academic year was winding down and a wealth of support was pouring in, Boulder Valley School officials made plans to distribute the donated books once the new school year commenced.
“They wanted to make sure these books got into the hands of people that can use them,” Dietel said. “They were very intentional and deliberate with how they wanted to handle that.”
To help farm out the reading materials, last month Boulder Valley School officials held a “Free Pop Up Book Fair” for teachers and librarians from across the district to stock up for students and classrooms.
“They were able to set up a number of locations where they did have books on carts and invited anyone in the community to take what they needed,” she said.
While some books were handed out to families who lost personal possessions during the fire, others were added to school library collections or given as “welcome back” gifts for students, according to a statement issued by the Boulder Valley School District.
“We’ve seen some heartfelt thank you (notes) from the Boulder Valley School District,” she said.
All told, the book drive collected over 7,000 printed works for Marshall fire victims.
While the book drive was overseen by the fourth graders, Dietel noted the endeavor was supported by the entire school body.
“We work with students at Tarver on understanding what it means to be a community member,” she said. “It’s just great to teach our students how to be better humans.”