The children use books from Madison area schools.
What began as a simple husband-and-wife operation out of a McFarland basement now often fills a 7,500-square-foot Middleton warehouse to capacity.
Originally conceived to prevent used textbooks from going to the landfill, Books for the World now ships educational materials to Third World countries for use in their own schools. The Middleton warehouse has become the Rotary Club's second-largest collection point in the country.
Along with the ecological benefit, "used books [get] into the hands of somebody who can use them for another five to eight years," says Bob Dombroski, coordinator of the program, along with his wife, Carol. "They're thanking us, and we're thanking them."
Carol, a retired elementary school teacher, understands the convenience for school staff of just tossing old materials, but she wanted to see them used for something more. The program started by shipping to countries in southern Africa, and now it sends books to many of the 250 countries that have Rotary Clubs, including Pakistan, Afghanistan and India.
The Dombroskis have enlisted over 700 volunteers from the United Way of Dane County and corporate groups to help with sorting and shipping. They've also involved other area Rotary Clubs in Waunakee, Stoughton, Sun Prairie and east Madison.
Carol and Bob have been the sole collectors of the books throughout Wisconsin, making for a busy, travel-packed lifestyle, especially in summer, when school districts tend to clear out their materials.
Recently, though, the Madison East Monona Rotary has started doing some pickups. The Dombroskis appreciate the assistance.
"Every year we keep getting older, the work gets harder," says Bob, adding that their goal in working with other Rotary Clubs is to transition to a different leadership.
Harry Ripp, president elect of the Madison East Monona Rotary, says their club seized the opportunity to be a part of the Books for the World program when Bob approached them.
"Our club has actually dwindled in size, and this looked like the kind of project that would work for our capabilities," says Ripp. "We were excited to get involved in an international project."
Members have picked up materials at La Follette and East High schools, as well as the Pinney Branch Library. They hope to eventually help out in the warehouse as well, and to see their membership grow to include more east Madison and Monona representation.
For more info, contact Carol Dombroski at firstname.lastname@example.org or through madisonbreakfastrotary.org.
Madison East Monona Rotary meets Tuesdays noon-1:15 p.m. at Hometown Buffet, 1745 Parkside Dr. For more information, contact Ripp at email@example.com.