We are delighted to introduce you to the Book Harvest team!
Book Babies Team Member
Moving from Colombia, South America to Carrboro, Book Babies Team Member Carolina (car-o-LEENA) Avary would be described by her daughter and son as someone who is strong and never gives up on what she believes in or her dreams. This trait may have come to Carolina at a very early age when she read Jonathan Livingston Seagull in first grade! “The Little Prince and Jonathan Livingston Seagull were used to encourage and motivate the children by inspiring us to be like or work hard as the two main characters. These books and the characters in them showed us that you could have the power to go through every single obstacle that you have.” The one word she drew from this early reading experience was “determination” and determination is what she uses day in and day out as she works with families to bring books into their homes for their babies.
Determination also comes in handy in Carolina’s other roles as a triathlete and as the PTA president at her kids’ school.
New to Book Harvest, Carolina felt a sense of pride during her first annual Book Babies Open House when many of the families she started visiting this year came to participate. “I grew up surrounded by books and every time I visit one of our families I get to see mothers reading to their children and it brings back memories of my mother reading a favorite book to me over and over again…”
Book Babies Team Leader
Meytal Barak grew up in Caracas, Venezuela where education was seen as the responsibility of the schools. “My environment stressed education, but here in the US, reading is a shared family value and it’s my job to help create an entire community of readers.” As Book Babies Team Leader (since October 2015), there’s never enough time to accomplish all that Meytal has on her plate. Beyond home visits and working with her team, she’s constantly designing partnerships and thinking of ways for families to get together and interact, and most importantly, finding ways for children to see their parents as readers.
“Reading The Little Prince as a fifth grader prompted me to ask lots of questions about the world we live in and the people around me. It made me realize that my community was a bubble…a really privileged place. For the first time I began thinking about how what I did impacted my surroundings beyond my school and community; it made me think about my greater society and the way I live with others.”
“During my home visits, during the meetings with my team; and in general whenever I walk into Book Harvest and see all the people that are involved with the organization, it fills me with pride.” With her husband and two boys, Meytal spends her weekends doing sports, walking around downtown and at the Farmer’s Market, cooking and eating together, dancing, and of course, reading!
Community Partnerships Manager
Operations Manager Daniele Berman’s son will tell you her nickname is “Iron Mama”—someone who is capable and strong but also kind (with perhaps a small streak of stubbornness). It is these qualities that make her uniquely suited to her role at Book Harvest: tasked with managing all the books coming in and out, a large team of volunteers, a busy office, and regular special events, her position takes full advantage of her “iron” qualities.
Daniele is proudest of her work when she sees its impact filtered through her own children, book lovers themselves who are developing their own awareness of how they can make a positive impact in their neighbors’ lives. “It is a particular kind of pride as a mother and a staff member to see your own child’s life changed alongside the lives of the children your organization serves.” From sorting books to setting up for events to helping children choose books for themselves, Daniele’s children are frequent and eager volunteers and ambassadors for Book Harvest’s cause.
The Value of Believing in Yourself: The Story of Louis Pasteur is a children’s book that has had a significant impact on Daniele. “While the images of the rabid dog, marching germs, and vaccine-filled syringes are what stick out most, the message of persistence in the face of challenges is one that has served me well and continues to do so today.”
Education Partnerships Manager
“When I was younger, I loved reading The Secret Garden because I loved how the characters were able to find something beautiful in the thorns and weeds of that overgrown garden. For me, this relates to the potential that books have and how they open up windows in life…seeing something that wasn’t there in your world before.” And if anything is part of Rachel Peterson Stine’s job at Book Harvest, it’s seeing the potential. As Partnerships Manager her focus is on building partnerships that support the programs, working with the schools, their principals, and the media coordinators. In addition to visiting schools, Rachel meets with other non-profits and the county library to strengthen relationships and reinforce the resources already available for children and their families.
Rachel moved to Durham about 15 years ago and learned of Book Harvest while running a program for middle school students. She first worked with Book Harvest when she picked up books for her students from Ginger’s garage in 2012. When she saw the job description for Partnerships Manager in late 2014, she realized it was a great fit with her skills and interests; she came on board in March 2015.
Besides loving the beach, good food, and California, Rachel enjoys spending time with her husband and watching their two sons play soccer and baseball, going for a walk in Duke Gardens and keeping up with her very large family—parents and six siblings!
Charlia Vance (that’s a hard “c” as in “char”, her nickname) serves as Executive Assistant, keeping the office organized and running smoothly in addition to tracking all monetary donations and grants. Living in Kentucky since college, on a lark she and her partner (with their two Dorkies —miniature dachshund and yorkie mix) moved to Durham in 2011. Char was working at the NC Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill, when a friend sent her the job description for the position with Book Harvest.
“Even though money was tight in my household, I grew up with a lot of books, and I have wonderful memories of reading with my mom. Every child should have books to call their own. I started working with Book Harvest in January 2016, during our MLK Dream Big Book Drive. What a fun way to dive in!”
In addition to her love of gardening, Charlia grew up surrounded by quilting and has fond memories of playing under the quilting frames, as the adults would quilt and talk. “I read Bridge to Terabithia when I was 10 years old. Set in Virginia where I grew up, one kid had a hard childhood and one of the main characters drowns and that happened to one of my classmates. It was the first time I openly wept while reading a book and really connected with the characters. It taught me about life and death, friendship and loss, and that I would be okay.”
Book Babies Team Member
Kenitra Williams grew up going to the library with her mom (an educator) and taking out the maximum number of checkouts allowed—50! No one had to instill the importance of reading to her. In 2015 she saw the job posting for a Book Babies Team Member and said to herself, “I’d love to do that!”
On the job Kenitra gets to see the joy of reading firsthand: “I love it when children are excited about my visit and are waiting at the door to receive their books. I pulled up to a home and the three-year old was standing at the glass door. I heard him yell to his mother, “She’s here! She’s here!”
With parents, younger brother and sister in her hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Kenitra lives in Durham with her husband and three children. “I can’t point to one specific book that changed my life. I was an avid reader growing up. I always had books with me. But a book I read over and over to my children was Nappy Hair.” Her husband will tell you that she loves people and will work very hard with them to make their lives better. Along with her work at Book Harvest, Kenitra has been a Girl Scout leader for the past five years and loves sharing Nappy Hair with her scouts. She had a moment of special pleasure when she learned from her daughter’s teacher that in response to a class assignment to “write about something you love about yourself,” Kenitra’s daughter wrote about her hair.
Founder and Executive Director
Ginger Young‘s own children were the inspiration for Book Harvest. “Reading books to my three young children had me enchanted by the power of stories to ignite imaginations – and yet just a half mile away from us were kids growing up in homes without books.” As her children outgrew their books, Ginger began puzzling over ways to share the hundreds of books in her home with children who needed books most. In January of 2011, she organized a book drive to test her ideas and the floodgates opened. “Suddenly 5,000 books were in my garage, waiting for their new forever homes. The utter generosity of our community continues to stun me today, with more than a half a million books donated to Book Harvest to date.”
“I loved Curious George as a child, and I was wildly fortunate in the 1980’s to become dear friends with Margret Rey, the author of the Curious George books with her husband Hans. Margret was an audacious thinker who saw the world through a most unconventional lens (George the monkey and his exploits were an expression of that). I gained a lifetime of wisdom from her. Today, when I watch a child select a Curious George book, it makes me beam. In many ways Margret remains my North Star, and I miss her every day.”
Ginger was and is Book Harvest’s North Star. As Founder and Executive Director, she continues to grow the organization and pursue her dream that every child have what her own kids had: a home rich with books.