My Nonprofit Reviews
Review for Bess the Book Bus Inc, Tampa, FL, USA
I am proud to be on the board of Bess the Book Bus. Bess is a non-profit mobile literacy outreach dedicated to getting books into the households of children who would otherwise go without. There is ample research that shows kids without books in the home are significantly more likely to spend their entire lives below the poverty line. This organization is staffed by ONE person, the visionary and founder, Jennifer Frances. Jennifer has build this organization based on a strong desire to build a love of reading in children similar to the one her grandmother, Bess, gave to her. Bess is based in Tampa, FL but is on the road across the United States annually. In 2011 she placed over 50,000 books into the hands of children in over 20 states. Her budget is minimal and focuses on maintaining the bus and keeping it fueled (the major expense). When you factor in the in-kind book donations along with those purchased, Bess distributed over $2M in product last year. It is difficult to really explain the magical quality that Bess has in these kids' lives... they light up when the bus pulls up and they are allowed to climb aboard and select their very own book. Jennifer also conducts 'read alouds' with the kids as part of her program... and the kids love it because she approaches her reading from the perspective of the child that is listening... she really understands them. You can experience Bess by going to her web site: bessthebookbus.org. This is one organization that you can have confidence is focused on the bottom line... helping children explore the world between the covers of a book.
I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...
I attended a wonderful event at a local elementary school celebrating Dr. Seuss' birthday. This particular event was actually a book drive where children donated books to be passed along to other children who need them. It was deeply moving. I also have seen Bess in action at back to school events where kids are given books along with necessary school supplies that they would otherwise not have to support their educational needs.
If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...
Find additional streams of income to help keep Bess confidently on the road. Bess is a Dodge Sprinter and books are heavy. The current Bess is long in the tooth and therefore costing more to maintain than what would be spent on a new vehicle. Bess needs more sponsors to help give her a reliable income to support the purchase of a new vehicle and to keep the organization running without significant financial stress.
Will you volunteer or donate to this organization beyond what is required of board members?
How much of an impact do you think this organization has?
Will you tell others about this organization?
When was your last experience with this nonprofit?
How did you learn about this organization?
I've been a friend of the founder, Jennifer Frances, since high school and have had the privilege of watching her tireless efforts to build this organization from an idea into a program that genuinely gives joy to children who unfortunately do not experience enough of that emotion in their young lives.
What is this organization's top short-term priority?
Replacing the vehicle. Bess needs a new Mercedes Sprinter 3500 fitted with auxiliary air conditioning, tow package and built out with book shelving. The estimated cost is @ $60,000.00
What is its top priority in the long run?
Additional stable funding sources to support car payments, maintenance and fuel expenses.