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California Mom Tackles Freight Fears in Book Rescue Initiative for Africa

A year and a half ago, Raina Chan discovered that schools in her area were tossing thousands of perfectly good books and supplies into the recycling bin every year. She decided to change that.

She began an effort to collect discarded school books and curriculum from the school districts in her county, and wanted to find a way to donate the items. At first, she figured the best place to send the materials would be to refugee camps, but wondered how the logistics would actually work to get the items to the right people and places.

After some online research, Raina discovered the organization that would shape her effort. Books for Africa has a simple mission: to end the book famine in Africa. The nonprofit organization collects, sorts, ships and distributes books to students of all ages in Africa, and is the largest organization of its kind, donating 40 million books to 53 different countries since 1988.

Inspired by Books for Africa’s mission, Raina began collecting, sorting and sending books and materials to the Atlanta warehouse, where the larger organization would send shipments to Africa. And so began Evelyn’s Initiative.

“We’re really the middle man,” Raina says, “we just wanted the books to be rescued from the dumpster.”

The items being sent are primarily textbooks and unused workbooks. Some are small reading books, perfectly intact and ready to use. Other supplies like grid blocks for math and pretend coins to learn counting are also collected and sent over.

A Worthy Legacy

Evelyn’s Initiative is named after Raina’s grandmother, Evelyn. She was a teacher who – unlike most women during that time – attended college in the 1920s. Living through the Great Depression, Evelyn took frugal living to heart, never wanting anything to go to waste. She passed away in 2009, but lives on through both Evelyn’s Initiative and Raina’s daughter Evelyn, named after her great-grandmother.

“When I saw the stuff going in the trash can, I thought of her,” Raina says.

Turns out, finding a name for the organization would be the easy part. Initially, Raina was using USPS Media Mail to send the books, but the shipments and costs quickly began to pile up.

“The more and more books we got, I realized: I needed freight, but I had no idea what I was doing,” she remembers.

That’s when she found uShip. Working with her dedicated account rep, Raina learned the ropes of less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping.

“It was a huge learning curve, but he really helped me understand how LTL works and helped me nail down the costs.”

Raina estimates she’s shipped around 13,000 books to Books for Africa’s Atlanta warehouse through uShip so far this year. Although the books are shipped internationally through Books for Africa, Evelyn’s Initiative is a very hands-on operation.

“We have a small building,” Raina says, “We pack boxes in our building, then hire a moving company to pack pallets in our parking lot on pickup days.”

The uShip experience has been a positive one for Raina since day one. Throughout the many shipments she’s listed, the best quotes have always been from the same service provider. Even the driver has been the same each time, and Raina appreciates his above-and-beyond communication and consistency.

Thanks to Raina and her team, Bakersfield Schools’ books now get a second life in the hands of children in Africa.  ________________________________________________________________________________________________________

We’re proud to support Evelyn’s Initiative and all of the many charitable organizations that use uShip to assist in their missions. To learn more about our own community service efforts, check out our uShip Gives program.