By Bobby Bordelon
A book for each student of Ronceverte and Alderson elementary schools is the goal of the Alderson’s Store’s book drive. Despite the rough year for many local businesses, the store has roughly three weeks left for the public to help get a brand-new, West Virginia-based book for around 600 Greenbrier Valley students.
“This is our third annual [drive],” explained manager Sarah Alderson. “The first year, we started with Alderson Elementary and the idea was that each child would get a new book for Christmas, a new book either by or about a West Virginian. … This kind of thing is needed now more than ever. We all could use that bright spot and feel like we’re doing something good and this is one way to help kids who have had a terrible year. This is especially important for them to get some of these special things at Christmas.”
Although this year has been difficult for many of the small businesses in downtowns throughout the Greenbrier Valley, the prospect of not holding a giveaway this year seemed unfeasible. Alderson and Jennifer Gilkerson, an employee of the Alderson’s Store, got in touch with Alderson Elementary School and began to make things happen. After the first year, Ronceverte Elementary School reached out to also be included. Alderson credited Gilkerson with “spearheading” the drive as the store works together to build the book stockpile.
“It’s a bigger job than people realize to make sure things are covered,” Alderson said. “I also want to make sure there’s always a little more, that they have a few extra [books] at least. … The community has always reached out and helped us, but we know that this year has been tough on everybody. … We have wonderful communities and wonderful towns and people locally have really helped us in the last couple of drives.”
Now the Alderson Store team has about three weeks to gather over 580 West Virginia books for Greenbrier Valley kids. The focus on West Virginia-based authors is a priority for the Alderson’s Store book selection for both the book drive and the store’s inventory.
“All of these have local interest too. … Of course, books about Katherine Johnson, who’s from White Sulphur Springs, books by Pearl Buck, the others are some very popular West Virginia writers … that we have all year. Our focus is to have West Virginia writers. This year is even more important because first and foremost we want the kids to have something special this year and to be able to do this for these two elementary schools.”
Many of these books are not only about the state or area, but also written by writers who have lived in the Greenbrier Valley. This also includes a recent classic that celebrates a decades-long Ronceverte tradition.
“This year we have included the book about Ronceverte stocking giveaway, ‘My Stocking Of Joy.’ It’s by Pat Echols Saunders,” Alderson said. “That’s what I’m going to push for Ronceverte Elementary for the kids to have because I think that would be extra special.”
One book in particular Alderson pointed to as special to her and her family.
“We have a book by West Virginia writer Belinda Anderson – it’s called Jackson versus Witchy Wanda: Making Kid Soup. … She was inspired by our store. It has a dedication to my mom and it says that it’s based on the windows in Alderson Store. [She started to imagine] the story as based on a store like ours and if a mannequin came alive. So that’s one of the books that we include that’s an option. It includes the depo, she uses several Alderson street names.”
Alderson hopes these local authors and artists show the next generation in the Greenbrier Valley their own potential.
“It’s also cool that Alderson students and Ronceverte students can see ‘oh look someone went to my school or grew up in my town and they wrote this book,’” Alderson said.
In a year that saw the town of Alderson go without its annual Strawberry Festival and Fourth of July parade, greatly reduced foot traffic throughout the year, and the shut-downs earlier this year, Alderson also hopes to use the fundraiser to support West Virginia businesses.
“We’re kind of struggling because we haven’t been open this year,” Alderson explained. “We need to open for the holidays. … We really want this book drive to be a success and truthfully the book drive is helping us. We are selling the books and we’re going to make sure, one way or another, the schools are going to get the books. We’ve been struggling as a small business this year, just to keep going from the shutdown, so it will help us, but we have one main publisher [that we get our books from and he] that is really struggling. When the shutdown happened in March [the business cut positions down to] one guy running it. He had to lay off his employees. He really needs this. There are West Virginia authors who have not sold.”
Alderson isn’t planning on giving up any time soon, however.
“We’ve been able to stay open, we are determined that we’re going to stay open and continue because we’re not going to be the generation that closes a 133-year-old store. It’s hard, it really is.”
In order to donate to the drive before it comes to a close and the books go out, reach out to the Alderson Store. Donations can be accepted in a number of ways, including cash, check, credit card, PayPal, and more. For updates, find the Alderson’s Store on Facebook.
“I’m going to try to be open every day from 10 to 4 after Thanksgiving until Christmas,” Alderson said. “I encourage coming by appointment, calling first, we need to limit how many people can be at a time, masks are required. We’ll have to keep cleaning between that, so people can come in and select it, but if they can [get online, we’re encouraging it].”