In a warehouse in Athens on Danielsville Road, hidden behind a Dollar General store, one woman and her team of volunteers gather to fulfill a mission.
The warehouse itself is not grand by any means. When one walks towards the warehouse you leave the paved road and step into the gravel and the dirt.
The space inside the warehouse is small, filled with packages and equipment and the only source of light comes from opening the large package loading door.
The exterior is deceiving because inside, Leslie Hale and her team are hard at work to supplying books to underprivileged children of Athens.
At a young age, Hale worked with her mother at a homeless shelter and her experience sparked her interest in serving the public and making a change in the world.
She developed a keen sense for listing to people and discovering what they truly needed.
Hale’s passion to help the public, along with her ability to listen and communicate with people set her on the path to supply books to the children of Athens.
After Hale graduated from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill with a degree in journalism in 2007, she worked covering local government, education, state wide campaigns and public policy process.
Hale noticed that the business of journalism was beginning to change and numerous reporters were losing their jobs. Hale decided to enter a new career that directly served the public.
While she was earning her master’s degree in public administration at the University of Georgia, Hale’s first service project was Books for Keeps, a non-profit organization dedicated to giving books to children to read them over the summer.
During her last semester in the master’s program, Books for Keeps was looking to hire its first employee. Because of her two-year involvement with the organization, they offered Hale a job as executive director.
“It was fate,” that’s the way Hale describes her feelings when she was asked to work for the organization.
As the executive director, Hale’s responsibilities range from meeting with potential donors to lifting books in a warehouse and even cleaning up after a book sale.
Brenda Rawson, a long serving volunteer of Books for Keeps, thinks highly of Hale and how she runs the organization.
“She has excellent organization skills and people skills,” Rawson said. “[She’s] very nice and sweet and gets all of the work done.”
“I entrusted her with my baby,” said Melaney Smith, founder of Books for Keeps. “You can always count always count on her.”
The hours are long but, at the end of the day Hale does it all to bring a moment of joy to the children of Athens and hopefully make them better readers along the way.
Her future is dedicated to seeing Books for Keeps grow beyond Athens and reach other cities in Georgia and eventually out of state.
“The most rewarding part of my job is giving out books to the children,” Hale said. “For three weeks, I give out books to the children and see their magical faces.”