When one group of local women meet each month for their book club, they’re not just talking literature. They’re also trying to help local aid organizations, bit by bit.
Every year, the women vote on a particular charity that they’ll support. This year, it’s Amethyst Place, which provides transitional housing for women in Kansas City.
At each monthly meeting, the women empty their pockets of and purses of loose change and put it in a bucket. By the end of the year, all that change adds up. Last year, they raised about $291.45.
The women first got the idea to donate spare change to a cause when they read “Three Cups of Tea,” a book about a man who builds schools in remote areas where locals don’t have access to many educational resources.
Because it inspired the club’s idea, the first recipient of their donated change was the charity associated with the book, Pennies for Peace.
They also collect items, such as shoes and books, to donate to various local organizations. All the women are involved in different kinds of volunteer causes, including the League of Women Voters, Uplift and Hospice House.
Initially, the group members were women who had children attending Bluejacket-Flint Elementary School in Shawnee, but over the years, they’ve added members from all over the area. They meet in a different member’s home each month. Members live in Shawnee, Olathe, Overland Park, Raytown, all over the metro area.
Besides their charitable ambitions, the women are very serious about having deep and thorough discussions about the books they read.
“Sometimes, the book is incidental for book clubs,” said Mary Morin of Raytown.
In this book club, there’s certainly a social aspect, but the book is the real star of each meeting.
“We knew we wanted to read good literature,” said Laura Dillingham of Shawnee.
This past month their selection was “The School of Essential Ingredients” by Erica Bauermeister. Next month, they’ll read “Life in a Jar” by Jack Mayer. Previous books include “River of Doubt” by Candice Millard and “My Beloved World” by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
“We read books that we would not normally read ourselves,” Morin said.
Each month, a different member hosts the gathering. The host presents the group with a selection of about five books, and the group votes on which will be the next month’s book. At the next meeting, the previous month’s host leads the book discussion.
In order to facilitate the discussion, the leader of the month not only reads the book but does additional research. That can include looking up reviews of the book. Additionally, that person writes open-ended questions about different aspects of the book to get thoughtful conversation going.
To make reading one book a month an affordable prospect, the group has a rule. The book must either be in paperback, so it isn’t too expensive to buy, or there must be sufficient copies available at local libraries.
The club activities stretch beyond the monthly meeting. In the past, they’ve gone to hear authors speak at local events, and they’ve also gone to the library together to learn about research resources, such as microfiche. A quarterly poetry meeting is also on the agenda for interested members of the club.
Meanwhile, the pocket change pile is getting a little bigger each month, and they’ve still got more than half the year to collect and give back through their reading.