Says Joe Maddon: “The volunteers are the unsung heroes. Without them, none of our efforts occur.” Every month, the Respect 90 Foundation will salute a distinguished volunteer from the communities of Tampa, FL, Chicago, IL, Mesa, AZ, Southern California, or Joe’s Hometown of Hazleton, PA. Respect 90 will present a $1,000 grant to that volunteer’s charity. Should you have someone who is deserving, please let us know.
Tiffany Ellington | Kids Need to Read (Mesa, AZ)
Tiffany Ellington remembers the exact moment she went all in for Kids Need to Read.
‘It was my first event with them, and we were at a school that was extremely impoverished,” she recalls. “And this little boy runs up to me and says, ‘You mean I get to take this book home with me?’ He was holding this book and he was so excited. That was the moment that I was like ‘Yes, I am staying with Kids Need to Read forever.’ I just love this organization and I love seeing that impact that books can have on children’s lives.”
That was three years ago, and the reigning Miss Phoenix has become a mainstay for the Mesa-based Kids Need to Read.
“Tiffany’s service includes being a board member, consulting on social media, attending events to bring books to children, and she even comes to the warehouse to help organize and inventory books,” says Kids Need to Read Executive Director Jessica Payne. “In short, she can do it all and I am so honored that she chose us to receive her service and her energy. “
Tiffany’s love of reading began as a child on her family’s farm located about an hour north of Indianapolis. She remembers how much she enjoyed teaching her younger brother, Josh, to read. “There was always this love of reading,” she says proudly. As a teen, her family moved to Arizona, and she became involved in the Miss America Organization. As part of her responsibilities as a candidate, she needed to select a specific social cause to support.
“I wanted mine to be literacy, but I wanted to find ways to tangibly give back,” Tiffany says. A google search brought her to Kids Need Read. “I emailed Jessica, and she emailed me right back and I started volunteering immediately.”
The organization’s mission is to ensure all children and adolescents have access to quality books no matter their race, economic status, or capabilities. Further, they provide inspiring programs to increase literacy rates and decrease dropout rates throughout the United States. These programs foster and uphold dignity and self-respect and demonstrate to children and adolescents the need to read, as we believe literacy contributes to school and life success.
One of Tiffany’s favorite tasks is to help out in the warehouse which requires cataloguing all books that come in, organizing them in a way to meet fire code and finally, fulfilling orders.
“So, if we have a request from a teacher in Kansas, we pull books based on their classroom, how many kids they have, what level of books they need, and preparing them for shipment,” she explains.
Kids Need to Read, which celebrates its 15th anniversary this month, has distributed $1 million worth of books to approximately 90,000 young students over each of the past two fiscal years. While the majority of their work is within Arizona, they also respond to requests from across the country.
Their books come primarily from donations, but Kids Need to Read has also formed relationships with publishers, authors, and outlets like Barnes and Noble. “Sometimes,” says Tiffany, “people just send us a book.
“We try to be visible at schools or book giveaways and non-profit drives within Arizona. Attending those events and interacting with kids directly are always my favorite.”
The Arizona State University graduate may have started her work with Kids Need to Read as part of her Miss America requirements, but she has found a home. “Even when I am done competing, I am still going to be involved with them because of how important all of this has become in my life.”
Rick Vaughn | Executive Director, Respect 90 Foundation