3 religious schools come together to collect 1,500 books for children

Prior to football game, BYU and Liberty University sponsor joint book drive. Southern Virginia University also supported the event

Liberty University’s football team may have beaten Brigham Young University in Lynchburg, Virginia, last Saturday, Oct. 22, but fans, students and alumni of both schools came together in service — and in the process blessed many children’s lives.

The BYU Education Society and the BYU Alumni Association, in conjunction with Liberty’s School of Education, sponsored an initiative to collect children’s books. 

Southern Virginia University, another local faith-based institution, also supported the event — meaning three religious schools came together for one purpose.

Fans were invited to bring new or lightly used books to the football game and use any of the multiple drop off locations on Liberty’s campus or throughout the BYU alumni pregame tailgate area.

BYU cheerleaders hold donated children’s books before the BYU-Liberty football game in Lynchburg, Virginia, on Oct. 22, 2022. The two religious schools sponsored the book drive with the added support of Southern Virginia University. | Nate Edwards, BYU

Amanda Cox, a BYU alumna who lives in North Carolina, was responsible for planning the book drive portion of the alumni tailgate event. She graduated from the BYU School of Education and was excited at the possibility of doing something with the BYU Education Society.

“I thought, we’ve never asked the opposing team to be a part of our service project and so I thought what better way to do that than with three faith-based institutions doing a service project that would allow us to benefit the children of the area.”

In total, 1,541 books were collected. The books were donated to the United Way of Central Virginia and will be distributed to local schools and young children in Virginia. 

“For me as a former teacher I loved to see all the books stacked up,” Cox said. “I just relish in that because I know the impact that it makes on children’s lives, especially for those that don’t have books available to them.”

The BYU Alumni Association has been including a service project during their pregame tailgates at each away football game during the 2022 season. Similar service projects took place earlier this season when BYU played at USF and Oregon, but this was the first time that BYU partnered with another college.

A book donation dropoff box fills with children’s books at the BYU Alumni pregame tailgate event on the campus of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, Oct. 22, 2022. | Nate Edwards, BYU

Michelle B. Goodwin, the associate dean of the Liberty University School of Education, said she was thrilled to work together for a successful book drive.

“We know early literacy skills are critical to student achievement and self-affirmation so we are grateful that the fans, students, and alumni of our universities are working tougher to provide access to reading resources for the children of Central Virginia and surrounding areas,” Goodwin said.

The president of the BYU Education Society, Gary Seastrand, said working together with another strong faith-based university like Liberty created a kinship in a different arena — he felt they all were able to collectively become friends.

“It shows you the power of literacy. It’s a uniter. It brings people together because it’s something everyone can agree on,” Seastrand said. “It’s important and significant in the world. The idea that we can collectively work together to make the world better via books and literacy is really powerful.”

Cox said all three schools — BYU, Liberty and SVU — have strong beliefs in the gospel of Jesus Christ, which teaches people to serve others. In this case, the children in central and southwest Virginia will be blessed by the service project. 

“I hope that people realize how much we love the gospel of Jesus Christ and that working together we’re able to serve the community and that we’re much stronger together than we are a part,” Cox said.

People fill the BYU Alumni pregame tailgate area before the BYU-Liberty football game where books were being collected for children in Lynchburg, Virginia, Oct. 22, 2022. | Nate Edwards, BYU

BYU’s Tyler Stahle contributed to this report.

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