Alumna group seeks book donations for local child patients

September 17, 2013

By Kristine Kim

Members of the Bellevue-Eastside Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women Alumnae Club will be in the lobby of the Issaquah campus of Swedish Medical Center collecting new or gently used books for children Sept. 25.

The event is a continuation of a project the group, whose fraternity’s philanthropy is literacy, started last year.

“About a year ago, we got together and decided we need a project that helps our local community,” said Claire Cahill, a member of the group.

With the then-newly established Swedish Medical Center in Issaquah, the women saw an opportunity.

During the process, the group worked with Pinky Herrera, who manages and supervises the Eastside volunteer program of Swedish/Issaquah.

“Instead of putting together something when the need is here, we kind of assessed what the anticipated needs would be,” Herrera said. The “library” — unlike a traditional library, children keep the books they choose to avoid the spread of infection — was something the hospital could use. Two carts donated by the sorority club stand in a section of the pediatric ward and the emergency room.

Having books on hand for children is especially important because of their age.

“We still want kids to feel like kids when they are in the hospital, and having their favorite book or a new book to choose from helps a lot towards that goal,” said Stephanie Wilding, the certified child life specialist at Swedish. “It is our goal here at Swedish/Issaquah to make the experience of our pediatric patients to be the most fun and pleasant as possible.”

Herrera said that most of the child patient population at the hospital is under 10, but a range of children from infants to teenagers use the book carts. Dr. Seuss and Clifford the Dog are always a favorite with the children, and books based on or related to movies may be popular as well.

“We went to Scholastic and got books there so we could at least fill the carts when they first started,” Cahill said.

In September 2012, they had their first book drive in the lobby of the hospital, and another one at the facility’s open house in December. Since they were just starting out, they were surprised at the response of people bringing books to them.

The group originally only accepted new books, but after many of the hospital staff members brought gently used books, they realized they could open their options. Due to the nature of the book carts not being a lending library, having a better stock of books is necessary, as books cannot simply rotate out.

Cahill suggests other groups can take up similar projects. Groups do not necessarily have to donate to the fraternity’s book drive; seniors in high school can put together a senior project, or someone could collect books for other hospitals. Having stories sitting on shelves can be invaluable to kids, and Wilding said children love the books.

It is a similar case from Herrera’s perspective.

“Since my role is really more the background role, what I think has been very meaningful to me is having groups of people who volunteer their time, resources and energy to really support our programs here to have the best possible patient experience,” she said. “Having a role in facilitating that effort is very meaningful.”



If you go

Book drive

  • Swedish/Issaquah
  • 751 N.E. Blakely Drive
  • Main lobby
  • 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5-7 p.m. Sept. 25
  • Donate new or gently used books for children

ages 1-15.

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