By John Burton
RED BANK – There were a lot of books held in stacks of plastic containers at Red Bank Self-Storage on Tuesday morning.
Even though the containers would have to be lugged into the storage facility, unpacked and sorted, there were a lot of happy faces on hand, because those receiving the donation knew the books would be going to people who needed and wanted them.
Kyra Citron, a 15-year-old from Brielle, collected and delivered 6,000 children’s books this week to the Bridge of Books Foundation. The books will eventually be distributed to organizations that will make them available to underprivileged youth around the state.
“Reading is very important to me,” said Kyra, who smiled continuously as she spoke very quickly and excitedly in front of cases of books at the storage facility on Willow Street.
As someone for whom “reading is a passion,” she hopes her donation helps make books available so “everyone will love to read and write.”
Kyra is the director of Kid’s Corner for the Charles Lafitte Foundation, a private foundation established by her family in 1999 and named for the family black Labrador retriever, who died last month.
The charitable foundation, which presented Bridge of Books with a $5,000 check on Tuesday, uses its own money to support organizations working in the areas of education, children’s advocacy, medical research and issues and the arts. The not-for-profit also conducts an annual golf outing to raise money for a specific charity. The most recent golf event raised $750,000 for the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicides, according to Suzanne Citron, Kyra’s mother.
Kyra has been collecting books since 2011, initially as her bat mitzvah project. So far she has gathered 15,000 books. She has encouraged area schools to participate and looks for donations “anywhere we can really get books,” she said.
“We’ve been running out of space in our home,” said Suzanne Citron of the containers of books building up in her basement. “But,” she said, “we’re happy to do it. We’re happy to put books in children’s hands.
“Moms are really happy to clean off their shelves,” she added. “We have teachers bringing in bags of books.”
Bridge of Books Foundation’s New Jersey chapter was founded 10 years ago by Abby Daly, who lives in the Locust section of Middletown. She continues to serve as executive director for the not-for-profit organization. The foundation’s work is to collect books in good condition for children ages 1 to 18. The organization works with various organizations to distribute those books to needy children in New Jersey, according to Teresa Jahns, the foundation’s administrator.
The foundation has worked with New Jersey Youth Corps and the National Head Start Association, along with Two River area organizations like the Community YMCA in Red Bank, and other groups to get the books to children.
Bridge of Books has so far collected 400,000 books over the last decade, receiving 50,000 this year alone, said Valerie Brett, volunteer coordinator.
Kyra, who is leaving shortly for Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, plans to continue working to help Bridge of Books and will certainly continue indulging in her love of reading.
“It’s something that is close to my heart,” she said.