The month of October is designated as service month. Each NSDAR chapter has their own projects and interests they support throughout the year. In Sun Lakes, our chapter supports animal rescue, veterans, retirement homes, and food banks, to name a few, while other members have found individual outlets for their passion of helping adults and children.
One such member is our very own Suellen Eyre. A retired reading teacher, the importance of early childhood literacy was never far from Suellen’s heart. So, five years ago, Suellen started collecting books for children and distributing them at Matthew’s Crossing Food Bank which was founded about 20 years ago by St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Chandler. Children coming to the food bank are allowed to select a book, free, to take home. Parents and grandparents who come without their children are allowed to select a book to take home to them.
Book donations initially came from church members, then when word got out, books started rolling in from neighborhood book drives, private individuals, organizations, and businesses. Suellen also used monetary donations to purchase books from garage sales and thrift stores. At first, the books were delivered to Suellen’s garage where she and her husband Gary sorted, cleaned, and categorized the books. As her efforts grew, the food bank gave her storage and workspace.
A memorable moment for Suellen was the day a woman from Guatemala standing next to her at the food bank became excited about a book on the American Revolutionary War. “This is what we are studying in my citizenship class! I’m studying to become a citizen of the United States!” Suellen gave her the book, another about Abraham Lincoln, and a third book for her child. “It was then I knew the scope of how the books can truly bring meaning to someone’s life,” Suellen recalls.
In the almost five years the book drive has been in existence, Suellen has helped to distribute almost 40,000 books for children from infancy to 8th grade level.
Needless to say, her efforts have been rewarded. She was nominated for and received the Literacy Promotion Committee Award from NSDAR in April 2018. Of the 63 entries for the nationwide award, our Suellen came out on top!
Suellen was nominated for her second award through the efforts of close friend and fellow DAR member Carole Jones. In October 2019, Suellen received the prestigious NSDAR Founders Award: The Mary Smith Lockwood Medal for Education, for Outstanding Achievement Through Educational Pursuits, one of DAR’s highest honors.
Suellen is one example of the caring and giving members we have in our Gila Butte Chapter. Many other members have their own pursuits, and to all of them who work tirelessly to support our community, we take off our hats and say, “Thank you for all you do.”