Martha Eliot Health Center
Dedicated husband and wife embark on 12-hour road trip to deliver hundreds of books and smiles to Martha Eliot patients
Martha Eliot Health Center - A few months ago, Stacy Leavens, patient and family educator at Martha Eliot Health Center (MEHC), was on the phone talking to her mom when she was asked how work was going.
Leavens, an avid reader, expressed to her how she was trying to acquire new or gently used books to distribute to Martha Eliot pediatric patient families in hopes of improving literacy. Being ever-supportive of her daughter and always looking for a way to lend a helping hand, Janice Leavens, a Lab Assistant at Troy Beaumont Hospital in Michigan, asked her co-workers, family and friends to clean out their kids’ rooms and donate unused books.
"Many of the people that donated are people I've known for years--while others, like her co-workers at Beaumont, are people that I've only met once. I'm sure there are a few have yet to meet. But still, they all jumped in to help out."
After a span of three months, Janice and Les Leavens collected more than 400 books, which they stored in boxes piled high in their living room. In April, as they planned to visit their daughter, they loaded up the books in their Chevy Impala and drove 12 hours from Memphis Michigan to deliver the books to Martha Eliot.
"They did drive through Canada to get here so it was an international event," Stacy says with a laugh. "I never expected them to collect so many books, but I'm not that surprised. It's exactly the kind of thing they always do. And then to make it even better, they drove them all the way here!"
Stacy has set up a table in the main MEHC lobby on select Thursdays to distribute the books to eager readers 6 months and older during their visit to the health center. She often sits down and reads with the children, who beam with happiness and imagination as they sift through books such as "Can You See What I See" and "Feast For 10". Some of the books are also being used to stock all of waiting rooms in the health center.
A love of reading runs in the Leavens family. Stacy studied English Literature in college and wrote her senior thesis on literacy in high school students. During her college years, she worked for four years in at a Michigan elementary school as a literacy tutor for 1st through 6th graders.
"The kids I worked with primarily came from low-income families and so everyday I saw first hand how poverty affected the kids' ability to learn," she says. "But I also saw that with a little extra help and encouragement they could succeed and do well in school. I personally think that by encouraging families to take an active role in their education we can get one step closer to closing the achievement gap."
Stacy grew up in Memphis, Michigan and joined Martha Eliot last September after graduating from Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan.