For the 17th year, the West Orange Times is looking for community support for its annual Reading Reindeer literacy drive.
From now through Dec. 12, the newspaper is asking its readers along with local clubs, civic groups, churches, businesses and others to donate new books that will be distributed to needy children in the West Orange area as Christmas gifts. Any new book suitable for a child from infancy to age 12 is appropriate.
Throughout the year, the community overwhelmingly embraced this endeavor, making Reading Reindeer a West Orange County holiday tradition. At the close of last year’s book drive, nearly 50,000 books had been distributed in the program’s 16-year history.
This year’s book distribution list includes children served by the West Orange Christian Service Center; Migrant Early Education Program of Orange County Public Schools; holiday toy programs in Ocoee and Winter Garden; Play and Learn Day School in Winter Garden; Resurrection Catholic Church; St. Jude Catholic Church; Head Start and pre-K at Maxey Elementary School; Docs for Tots at Health Central; Boys and Girls Club in Winter Garden; Winter Garden Children’s Health Center; West Orange Neighborhood Center for Families; Matthew’s Hope; Maxey Center; and Edgewood Children’s Ranch.
Cash donations to purchase books also are accepted. Checks payable to Reading Reindeer should be sent to the West Orange Times, 720 S. Dillard St., Winter Garden, Florida 34787. A clip-off donation form is printed on page 5A of this week’s issue. Please place the form inside your book donation and include your name and city of residence so the Times can publish a list of donors at the end of the drive.
Through a long-standing partnership with the Adult Literacy League in Orlando, each book also includes a family literacy brochure explaining to parents the importance of reading to children — even infants. The league trains volunteer tutors to teach reading and basic literacy skills. It provides weekly classes and free, one-on-one tutoring to more than 3,000 students. It is located at 345 W. Michigan St., Suite 100, Orlando 32806. For more information or to become a volunteer tutor, call (407) 422-1540.
This year, a new partner, Just 1 Book, is joining the Reading Reindeer team. It is a non-profit founded by high school student Sarah Dewitz, of Orlando. Through its resource connections, Just 1 Book will assist Reading Reindeer in providing age-appropriate books to the agencies and children it serves in West Orange County.
Reading Reindeer is also soliciting community volunteers to help with sorting and labeling books, including students in need of community-service hours.
For more information or to volunteer, call Kathy Aber, (407) 929-2676.
Book donation boxes are available at 12 locations this year:
• West Orange Times office, 720 S. Dillard St. Winter Garden
• West Orange Chamber of Commerce, 12184 W. Colonial Drive, Winter Garden
• Windermere Library, 530 Main St., Windermere
• West Oaks Library, 1821 E. Silver Star Road, Ocoee
• Winter Garden Library, 805 E. Plant St., Winter Garden
• Southwest Library, 7255 Della Drive, Orlando
• Axum Coffee, 146 W. Plant St., Winter Garden
• Gentle Touch Medical Aesthetics & Wellness Spa, 2723 Maguire Road, Ocoee
• V Hair Studio, 2747 Old Winter Garden Road, Ocoee
• Tasting Room at Chef’s Table, 99 Plant St., Winter Garden
• The Waxing Room, 16 E. Joiner St., Winter Garden
• Divas Salon and Spa, 15501 Stoneybrook West Parkway, Winter Garden
• Planet Smoothie, 3025 Daniels Road, Winter Garden