A typical Bernie’s Book Bank book drive lasts a couple of weeks and brings in a few thousand books. The Wilkov family book drive is anything but typical. They have collected 700,000 books for Bernie’s book Bank in the past nine years and they’re not finished yet.
The unique book drive started in 2011 when Andee and Willie Wilkov along with their two children, Ally and Ryan, decided to share their passion for books with children in need.
“Our kids were huge readers and we knew there were children who didn’t have books and we thought it’d be great if we could do a book drive,” Willie shared. “And then we stumbled upon a book donation site at Costco for Bernie’s Book Bank…it was like the lightbulb went off.”
The Wilkov family set a goal to collect 10,000 books for Bernie’s Book Bank. They quickly crushed this goal and wanted to do more, so they set a new goal of 25,000 books. All it took was one summer and they had completed their goal yet again. When it would have been easy to stop there, they chose to take on an incredible quest to collect one million books!
Over the years the Wilkov family has received support from family, friends, neighbors and acquaintances. To reach even more potential book donors the Wilkovs have put up posters in the community, posted in Facebook groups and even appeared in the local news.
“Everyone has been extremely supportive of our efforts and they are pretty amazed at our lofty goal,” Andee shared.
The Wilkov family had the opportunity to see the mission of Bernie’s Book Bank in action when they helped hand out book bags at a distribution.
“It was like Christmas morning, they were so excited to share and talk about their books,” Willie recalled. “I left feeling so great about the distribution…We are always big on how do you create and even playing field? How do you give everyone the same opportunity? And having books in the home was never a question and so giving that same opportunity to every kid is important to us.”
While the book drive has been a fun and gratifying experience for the Wilkov family throughout the past nine years, it has also required hard work and determination.
“We spend most of our weekends doing this; a couple weeks ago we had 25 pickups over the weekend. It is a big-time commitment and schlepping books is not easy,” Andee explained. “At the same time, it is so rewarding when you do something that you care about and you accomplish something. We are proud of the work we have done.”
When asked what advice they have for other families who are looking to make a difference in the community, Willie touched on the importance of goal setting.
“I would encourage people to set a big goal and commit to delivering on it,” he explained. “It is very inspiring, and it feels really good when you accomplish it.”
The Wilkov family set a deadline for their goal that coincides with their son Ryan’s high school graduation, which will be in 2023. They are approximately 300,000 books away from reaching one million books and hope to stay on pace by collecting 100,000 each year until 2023.
During the COVID-19 pandemic Bernie’s Book Bank continues to provide free quality books for local under-served children. Similarly, the Wilkov family continues to safely collect books for Bernie’s Book Bank.
If you have gently used children’s books (birth through sixth grade reading level) to donate and would like to support the Wilkov family in their quest, you can reach out to them via Facebook or by email to schedule a pick up.
Take a step back in time and watch the video below of Ally and Ryan from the start of their family’s quest to collect one million books for Bernie’s Book Bank –