Raising funds and sharing memories with a book of seniors' WWII-era stories

RSVP of Scioto County, Ohio, compiled the memories of WWII-era veterans and seniors in their community and then published them in a book titled Memoirs of WWII: A Time to Remember, which they sold to raise funds. Once the book was published, the featured veterans participated in Read Around the World Day by reading their stories to local elementary school students.
Programs are always looking for ways to raise funds. As seniors who experienced the World War II era grow older, younger generations risk losing valuable first-hand perspectives of a critical period in American history.
At the 2000 Points Of Light Conference in Orlando, Scioto RSVP won a raffle, with a prize of a free printing set-up from a publishing company. They decided that publishing a book would serve as both a fundraiser and a promotional tool for their program. As a topic, they chose to record the memories of local seniors who had lived through the World War II era.
Successful practices in developing and sharing the book include:
  • Advertisements were placed in local newspapers to request story submissions from the community at large. Many of the people with valuable memories to share, however, did not feel confident of their own writing skills, so members of Memory Makers (a local writing group) volunteered to interview and critique the recollections of seniors. They then transformed the memories into coherent stories, while giving the seniors full authorship credit for the published work.
  • The program identified an art gallery owner, a museum curator, and a university art professor to volunteer their time to judge and coordinate submissions for the book's artwork.
  • The program located a hospital and a retirement center who both agreed to buy advertising space at the back of the book to help offset printing costs.
  • Scioto RSVP coordinated events with local elementary schools as part of Read Around the World Day; the senior authors of Memoirs of WWII read their stories aloud to students in grades 3-6.
  • Of the 500 books printed, 100 were pre-sold to people involved in the project, helping generate initial capital for the printing process; the remaining books were put on display in four local retail bookstores — further increasing Scioto RSVP's visibility in the community and generating funds for the program.
The authors were received with great enthusiasm by students and could have easily exceeded the 30 minutes allotted for each class; students were impressed that these were the actual personal experiences of the authors who were there to read to them. Teachers and principals were also delighted with the reading event and requested that it become an annual event at their schools. The authors felt very appreciated by the schools and loved the opportunity to read their stories to the students. Some even expressed an interest in getting more involved with the schools on a regular basis.
Vicky Daily, director of RSVP of Scioto County, highly recommended the book-publishing project as a fundraiser and as a means of bringing RSVP into the limelight of the community in a whole new way. Profits from book sales went into Scioto RSVP's general fund.
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