A Valentine’s Gift Idea from Anna DeStefano
It’s Free & Guaranteed to Win Hearts!
I have an idea for special Valentine’s gift that I hope every one of you will give this year.
It’s not something you can buy, or something that requires a lot of time to create. But this gift is very personal, very powerful, and something ANYONE who loves to read can share. How do I know? Because through an initiative I’ve launched called Hearts for Hearts, I’ve personally given away hundreds of them in the last two months, and it hasn’t cost me a dime!
What’s the special gift?
Books. Books you already have. Books in your personal collection. Books you’ve read—or bought and haven’t gotten around to reading. Books that would bring joy to someone else who can’t afford to buy them.
That’s it. That’s Heart’s for Hearts.
How does it work? Select books from your personal collection, then take a look at your community with fresh eyes. Look for a group or organization or not-for-profit—maybe a homeless shelter, perhaps an after-school program for inner-city kids. Call the organization and describe Hearts for Hearts to them. Tell them what kinds of books you have to donate, and ask if the people they serve could use them. Then make your donation, gifting new readers with the escape, creativity and healing and (if your books are romances), a happy-ever-after that your already-loved books can make in their lives.
My goal when I launched Hearts for Hearts in early December was to get 1,000 books donated by year’s end. We more than exceeded that! I donated to four groups: a center that supports foster children, a group that works with lower income families in a nearby trailer park, a children’s hospital and my local YMCA. I mentioned Hearts for Hearts to some buddies in a writers’ meeting, and they gave me boxes of books from other genres, even non-fiction titles, for my donations. Some writer friends and enthusiastic readers also made donations, one to a day center for the homeless and mentally ill that desperately needed a library, others to county jails. My husband and teenage son got excited about the program and depleted their personal libraries of all but their absolute favorites.
It’s addictive, giving story away and knowing how much it will mean to others. Every time I talk about the concept, ideas abound about where those I’m talking with could donate in their communities. Then they share the idea with others, and more donations spring to life.
Hearts for Hearts is an amazing, pay-it-forward, simple thing. It costs no one anything, just a little bit of time. Then the rewarding moment comes when you’re at your first donation site, and you share a coordinator’s or recipient’s excitement when he or she sees what you’re dropping off!
Why start a program like this? My tagline for the novels I write is Building Community, One Story at a Time. They’re relationship novels that pull at your heartstrings. But each book also delves into what makes communities mean so much to us. I tend to craft vulnerable characters with soul-deep needs that only a village can fulfill. For example, Fin, a foster child in Love on Mimosa Lane, is struggling to find his way. Like many displaced kids, he needs a lot of help from his community to make their town his home. When one of my first book donations in my county turned out to be a support organization for foster families, I knew Fin would approve.
Whether you donate one book or ten or collect a whole bunch from friends and family, lives will change because of your gift. Books can make that much of a difference, one story at a time.
My team’s goal for 2014 is 10,000 books donated, and we’re looking for a donation to be made in every state. It might sound ambitious. But as I said, this concept spreads like wildfire. In addition to friends, many of my business partners, like my agent and publicist, have donations in the works. So do other authors, two small press publishers we’ve contacted, and that’s just a start. New donations are developing as I type in Florida, Tennessee, Washington and South Carolina.
You’ll find program guidelines, examples of donations, suggestions for where to donate and other helpful hints on my website Hearts for Hearts page: http://bit.ly/J7I7LL. Have questions? You can reach me by email at HeatsforHearts@AnnaWrites.com.
We’d LOVE to hear your donation story. I’m dying to see pictures, too, so send some like the ones you’ll find on the website. And please think about sharing your enthusiasm on your Facebook page. An easy way to do this would be to link to my Facebook Sweepstakes Contest at http://on.fb.me/1cnXuLn, where I describe the program. I’m also giving away a new Brighton heart prize there each month through February.
Happy Valentine’s Day, fellow book lovers! Where do you think you could donate books in your community? I’ll send a set of my Mimosa Lane novels as my V-Day gift to the person who comes up with the most creative idea and leaves it in the comments!