Meet September “Do the Right Thing” Winner: Kelsey Butler
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — A Chattanooga woman is using her passion for reading and teaching to help area kids in need.
Kelsey Butler started a non-profit organization that helps send books home to kids, who otherwise would not have access.
That’s why Butler is this month’s Do the Right Thing winner.
Butler founded the Homebound program last year, collecting donated books for Tennessee Valley children in need.
She started the program after working with underprivileged kids, while pursuing her elementary education degree at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga.
“So I had seven kids I would work with privately once a day, and I did my own little mental project one day and asked them all, ‘Do you practice reading at home? Or do you only get to practice in the hallway with me?’ Butler said. “And four of the seven told me that they didn’t have any books at home. And so that was my sophomore year of college. I just kept brainstorming. I was like, ‘There’s something we can do to fix this. There has to be. There has to be an easier way to make sure a kid has a book at home every night.'”
Butler says it broke her heart, knowing these kids wouldn’t be reading outside of school.
Since launching Homebound, Butler has collected more than a thousand books for kids in need.
“It’s just a phenomenal project,” said Hank DeHart, Kelsey’s friend. “We think about kids not having toys around Christmas, but she’s providing books to kids year round. It’s brilliant.”
And the program continues to grow.
Butler says bookshelves with donated Homebound books will be in six area schools by the end of this month, and hopefully nine schools by the end of the year.
“It’s been amazing to watch it grow,” said Aly Butler, Kelsey’s sister. “Like from the bottom to now, it’s insane. I’m really proud of her.”
Butler says she loves getting the kids excited about reading.
“They’re super excited about the shelf,” Kelsey said. “They all want to use it. The kids at East Ridge – one of the little girls told me she read to her little sister at home, one of the books that she brought. I thought that was awesome.”
She says they’re targeting schools with Pre-K to 5th graders right now, and there are drop off spots all over Chattanooga.
“The community has been incredible,” she said. “Books keep flooding in.”
If you’d like to donate any books, you can drop them off at Hank DeHart’s State Farm office, GOOD DOG, the FEED Co., Merchants on Main, and all Lupi’s Pizza locations.