Reviving Books, Bears and the Joy of Reading
By MEGAN HUSSEY
On a daily basis, Joseph’s House Brooksville, a Christ-centered ministry serving Hernando County provides, “food and essentials to those going through difficult times and partner with other local ministries and organizations to provide faith, hope, love and compassion to those in need.” (jhbv.org/) Yet during the Christmas season, the ministry strives to provide more; namely, holiday presents for needy children.
This holiday season, with the need greater than ever, donors came forward with generous donations of toys and bikes. And via her mass donation of books and stuffed animals, one Spring Hill woman emerged as this year’s Santa.
Jude Creamer, the owner of Recycled Reading Buddies, creates sets of repurposed books and stuffed animals that she sells at www.recycledreadingbuddies.com. And this Christmas, she donated about 225 of these sets to a trio of beneficiaries: Head Start Hernando, Head Start Pasco, and Joseph’s House. “We had enough of those toy sets for 40 kids,” said Cynthia Waddy, Joseph’s House. “Her donation was a huge help.”
It was, indeed, a desire to help that first motivated Creamer to begin her business in fall 2018.
“Reading is important,” said this avid book lover. “And today, as they look at their phones and videos, kids don’t read. I wanted to find a way to foster a lifelong love of reading.”
The answer, Creamer felt, was to give kids a reading buddy; something that, furthermore, actually related to the theme and subject of their book. “They need something they can snuggle with,” she said. “Something they can read to.”
Creamer went to craft fairs and thrift stores in search of used books and stuffed animals. She cleaned, fluffed, and (if needed) sewed, mended, and performed related handiwork on the toys. Then she paired the two, to best effect, and wrapped them in cellophane gift wrap.
“It makes sense that I pair a Winnie the Pooh bear with a Winnie the Pooh story, same with Curious George and Mickey Mouse,” she explained.
Other sets listed on her website include a Finding Nemo book with a plush Dory fish, a copy of Puppy and Me Bath Day with a plush dapper bather puppy, and a copy of Julian Lennon’s Heal the Earth paired with a plush white teddy.
Aside from selling these sets to boost kids’ interest in reading, Creamer felt the need and the drive to help more. To that end, she developed an ongoing creative relationship with Head Start programs in Hernando and Pasco. “Head Start/Early Head Start is a nationwide, federally funded program whose purpose is to promote school readiness by enhancing the social, physical, and cognitive development of children. Head Start is provided at no cost to eligible families and accepts children ages three years old to five years old,” reads a description found on their website. “Early Head Start provides early, continuous, intensive, and comprehensive child development and family support services to low-income infants and toddlers and their families, and pregnant women and their families.”
And ultimately, Creamer yearned to give the most, in the season of giving. “I kept thinking about children in need who might not get a Christmas gift,” she said. “If a child doesn’t have anything, they appreciate it more.”
Aside from the children of Head Start, Creamer also reached out to Joseph’s House, ultimately delivering about 225 gift packages for the benefit of children served by these programs.
And what gift does she receive in return? “I love seeing the photos of the kids as they receive their gifts,” she said. “I love to see the smiles.” And according to Cynthia Waddy, the children served by Joseph’s House are very pleased indeed to claim their books and their buddies.
“I didn’t have to worry about having enough toys to give this year,” she said. “And we couldn’t have done it, without Jude.”