First Book Friday: Making It Happen in Milwaukee

Today’s blog post comes from Gina Rullo. Gina has been an employee of First Book since October 2010 and is a Recipient Group Coordinator on the Help Team. She is from the Albany, NY area and moved to Washington, DC in October. She always enjoys a good laugh and feels very passionate about the mission of First Book.

When I recently found out that I would be going on my first ever National Book Bank Distribution, I was ecstatic. I was told I would be traveling to Milwaukee the week of July 18th, with a dynamic team that would include colleagues, Katie Nierbasch, Rachael Voorhees and Susanne Sparks. 

Rachael Voorhees, Gina Rullo, Katie Nierbasch,

Before I knew it, we were on an early Monday morning flight bound for Milwaukee, Wisconsin. No time was wasted as we literally stepped off the plane and headed straight to the NewThreads of Hope warehouse in Wauwatosa, almost forgetting to claim our checked bags. The President of NewThreads of Hope, Dennis Brand, gave us a tour of the warehouse upon our arrival.  He showed us an air conditioned room to eat our lunches -this didn’t seem so bad!

  • Day one consisted of labels…and more labels…ready to be placed upon boxes that would soon be sent to programs nationwide.
  • The morning of day two was filled with an event that was for the kids of the Urban Day Charter School and was collaborated with First Book, Sam’s Hope Literacy Foundation and the Milwaukee Bucks. The afternoon was occupied with pallets being packed and staged for orders that would be shipped and picked-up.
  • Day three in Milwaukee was a big success with our unstoppable volunteers from Messmer Catholic Schools who were slinging boxes and staging orders in record time. Programs showed up at the exact same moment to pick-up their books in all kinds of vehicles that included school buses, trucks and vans. With the help of our volunteers, we were able to distribute 90,000 books alone on this particular day.
  • Our fourth and final day in the warehouse was a busy one as more programs picked-up their books and more pallets were loaded up to be shipped. The same group of volunteers from Messmer returned in which we were most grateful for. All of the volunteers that helped us the entire week worked unbelievably hard and we could not have done it without them! Suddenly, the distribution was completed and the NewThreads of Hope Warehouse remained behind us in our rearview mirror.

I was a little sad to leave Milwaukee as it had been a hard-working yet fun week and our hosts from NewThreads of Hope were very generous throughout it all. Several “firsts” took place for me and I learned a great deal. It was my first National Book Bank Distribution, my first participation at an event, my first time to the Midwest and my first introduction to a pallet and pallet jack. Most importantly, it was the first time that I truly got to see the actual books being distributed to the kids. Additionally, I was able to witness the emotional reactions of the programs that were overcome with joy and even tears, when picking up books on behalf their organizations. Amidst the dirt-stained First Book t-shirts and heat wave in Wisconsin, I am very happy to say that I had the opportunity to help distribute 420,000 books to kids.