Writing Lives: Books Beyond the Prison Bars—Weds., March 25 at Women & Children First

Join us along with authors Crystal Laura and Maya Schenwar for readings from their recent and acclaimed books, and for conversation with all of us on making vital connections behind bars, prison issues and more at this special event.

Writing Lives: Books Beyond the Prison Bars

Wednesday, March 25, 7:30 p.m.
Women & Children First
5233 N. Clark St., Chicago

Crystal&BookCrystal Laura is an assistant professor of educational leadership at Chicago State University and the author of Being Bad: My Baby Brother and the School-to-Prison Pipeline.

May&BookMaya Schenwar is the Editor-in-Chief of Truthout, chair of the Media Consortium, and member of the Board of Advisors of Waging Nonviolence, and the author of Locked, Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn’t Work and How We Can Do Better.

Books will be available for purchase. More details to come.

New Volunteers: Orientation this Sunday, February 22

It may be cold outside, but you’ll find a warm atmosphere as a volunteer with Chicago Books to Women in Prison. It’s such a simple thing we do—selecting and sending books in response to requests we receive in the mail—and very rewarding.

Note

Join us for our next orientation session, led by one of our experienced volunteers, Sunday, February 22, 1–2 p.m., right before our regular 2–5 p.m. work session. Get the details here.

If you can’t make it this week, plan now to join us for the March 29 orientation or whenever you can. (We hold our orientations on the last Sunday of each month. When it’s a holiday weekend, we may move the orientation date by one week. Check back here for any updates.)

Rarely available on Sundays? There are lots of other ways to get involved and help get books in the hands of women in prison.

Snow Day

SnowyBranchesAccording to the latest weather bulletin, we could be getting 18 inches of snow by tonight, so we’ll take a rare day off for safety’s sake.

We’ll be open next week as usual for volunteers and donation drop-offs.

New Volunteers: Orientation this Sunday, January 25

Please join us for our next orientation session, led by one of our experienced volunteers, this Sunday, January 25, 1–2 p.m. Then stay for our regular 2–5 p.m. work session. Get the details here.

Just learned about us? Been thinking of joining for a while? This is a terrific time to get involved with Chicago Books to Women in Prison. Not only will you make a concrete, personal difference in the lives of people in difficult circumstances, but we had a great year in 2014. And more is planned for 2015, including our new series of community events.

It’s also simply extremely satisfying to match a book request with books that you select, knowing that soon you will be making someone’s day in a powerful way.

Not often available on Sunday? We invite you to support our work in other ways and help give women in prison the self-empowerment, education and entertainment that reading provides.

RSVP: Social Ways to Support Our Work

This time for once we’re not talking about Facebook or Twitter

In November a friend of ours in Texas told us she was planning a fundraiser in her home. We heard back from her recently:

I hosted a small Christmas party at my house where I invited all my girlfriends (many from a book club I belong to). I asked everyone to bring a used book, which we laid out on a large table and swapped among ourselves. I had a separate table displaying the letters from the inmates you sent me as well as a donation box. (I’d read on your site that it was better to give cash than to incur the cost of shipping books multiple times.) That way people could donate if they felt inclined and everyone went away with a “new” book.  I gave some door prizes as well. Everyone really liked the idea. I’m happy to contribute to your organization. My sister is incarcerated and I know how much books and reading has meant to her there.

The following day I posted a thank you on my Facebook page with a link to your Amazon wish list so that those who didn’t donate or couldn’t come to the party would have a chance to contribute after the fact.

We’re grateful for our friend’s thoughtfulness. The total donations enabled us to send nearly 50 packages of books. In addition, last year others chose to celebrate special days of theirs by supporting Chicago Books to Women in Prison. For example:

  • One long-time supporter asked friends and family not to buy gifts for her big birthday party, but to donate to our organization instead.
  • In planning their wedding, a local couple wanted to support their interest in helping people in prison. They made a generous donation instead of buying wedding favors.

Interested in hosting a small event in your home? It’s a fun, easy way to make a difference in the lives of people in prison. Or like the idea of combining a celebration with helping more women behind bars get the books they want and need? Let us know in advance and we would be happy to provide materials to help you.

How Did We Do in 2014?

packedbookswowWe mailed 2,915 packages of books in this year that’s ending soon.

That’s about 8,700 books and a few dozen blank journals.

Nearly 30% more than in 2013!

How did we do it? This past year we improved some key processes. And we welcomed new volunteers with energy and ideas to our small but mighty team.

But we also counted on the support of many friends who:

Stay in touch in 2015 as we provide more women with the self-empowerment, education and entertainment that reading provides. And finally, a few words from Patricia M. in Florida that make it clear why we’re looking forward to another year at Chicago Books to Women in Prison:

NewYearNote

New Volunteers: Next Orientation is Sunday, January 4

We’ll be skipping a week in our usual last-Sunday-of-the-month volunteer orientation schedule to better accommodate holiday plans for many. (We will be open 2–5pm for current volunteers and drop-off donations of books and leftover money.)

Join us for our next orientation session, led by one of our experienced volunteers—Sunday, January 4, 1–2pm, right before our regular 2–5pm work session. Get the details here.

You may find this well timed for taking action with a New Year’s resolution or two. Volunteer? Meet new people? Get involved with an issue you care about? Make a concrete, personal difference in the lives of people in difficult circumstances?

If you’re not often available on Sunday, check out other ways to get involved and help give women in prison the self-empowerment, education and entertainment that reading provides.

Holiday Donation Drive for Women in Cook County Jail

Please support this initiative by Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer. Your thoughtfulness will help women in difficult circumstances during the holidays and beyond.

Cook County Bridget Gainer - Holiday Donation Drive.jpg

Be a Part of #GivingTuesday

Black Friday has come and gone.
Cyber Monday too.
But the spirit of Thanksgiving continues.

Today is the third annual #GivingTuesday, a national day of generosity to non-profit organizations. We know there are many worthy causes you could support, but since you’re reading this, chances are you share our sense of the importance of our mission.

For more than 12 years, we’ve been meeting weekly to read letters and fulfill requests from women behind bars across the country. We do our best to choose just the right books from the thousands of paperbacks donated year round by readers in Chicago and beyond, in able to offer the women we serve the  education, entertainment and self-empowerment that reading provides.

In 2013, we mailed 2,274 packages of books—nearly 7,000 books in all—and it looks likely that we’ll surpass that for 2014. We couldn’t do any of it without people like you who care about this as much as we do.

We welcome all gifts, but here are some specific ways your donation can help:

  • $15 provides a week’s worth of packing tape
  • $35 pays Media Mail postage for ten book packages (three books each to ten women)
  • $70 buys First Class postage for one blank journal each to 20 women
  • $125 covers our rent for one month (we’ve recently expanded, which will help us do more, more efficiently)
  • $200 is a typical week’s worth of postage (multiply that by 52 and you get a good idea of our need throughout the year)

Please help if you can on #GivingTuesday. Paypal is handy at the top right of this page. Or send a check or money order to:

Chicago Books to Women in Prison
c/o RFUMC
4511 N. Hermitage Ave.
Chicago, IL 60640

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter @ChicagoBWP so you can share in the energy of #GivingTuesday. And help us get the word out to your friends and followers!

New Volunteers: Orientation this Sunday, November 30

Concerned about prison issues and want to get involved? Intrigued by the chance to make a concrete, personal difference in the lives of prisoners?

Join us for our next orientation session, led by one of our experienced volunteers—Sunday, November 30, 1–2pm, right before our regular 2–5pm work session. Get the details here.

If you can’t make it this week, plan now to join us for our next orientation. These monthly events usually take place the last Sunday of the month, but to better accommodate holiday travel and such, our next orientation will be Sunday, January 4. This might even tie in nicely to a New Year’s resolution or two. Volunteer? Meet new people? Save the world (or at least one small part of it)?

If you’re not often available on Sunday, check out other ways to get involved and help give women in prison the self-empowerment, education and entertainment that reading provides.


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