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Sailors volunteer to clean up Tucson nonprofit's sidewalks

Visitors in town for Navy Week help literacy non-profit tidy office sidewalks, organize books for young readers
Posted: 9:11 AM, Feb 23, 2023
Updated: 2023-02-23 11:11:24-05
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) -- — Active sailors visiting town for U.S. Navy Week in Tucson answered the call to help give a sidewalk and storefront near downtown.

Stepping from the outside of Stone and 4th and into the Old Pueblo nonprofit Make Way For Books, the volunteers also spent time making sure families know which books could help foster their kids' love for reading.

Petty Ofc. GM3 Jaret Schott got to work Monday morning, sweeping the concrete and trimming dying trees. A native of South Carolina, Schott said he arrived in Tucson with some knowledge of the city's more recognizable street names.

"On the ship, we have, for every hallway, we have a street sign," he said. That ship — his office — is the U.S.S. Gabrielle Giffords.

"I've been noticing quite a few similarities on the street signs here in the street signs on the ship. I think that's pretty cool how they make that connection. They make it a lot more localized and relatable to the actual hometown."

Schott and his crewmates came at a great time of the year. The Make Way For Books staff said they're preparing to invite more young kids and families to discover their next favorite story.

"By beautifying that space, by keeping it clean, by making sure people can see us and find us and feel really at home in this space," Melinda Englert said. "It's really important part of our work here."

Englert, the nonprofit's chief creative and communications officer, said she and her peers also hope to visit more teachers and parents who could not access the program's online literacy resources in the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"When we're out there in the community, (we) meet people who will find that they're surprised at all of the comprehensive programming that we're providing," Englert said. "That word of mouth is really important, from family to family or educator to educator."

Before the sailors put their work gloves on, or started labeling the new books, they followed Englert on a brief tour of the office and library space. There, they listened and learned how
the nonprofit impacts 30,000 young children and families in Arizona each year.

"The little amount of people that we do meet with these type of events," Schott said, "You can just tell the excitement that they have, (and) the impact that we are going to have on them. We don't do it for the recognition... we know how big of an impact it is on pretty much how everybody else lives their daily lives."

The Make Way For Books staff said there's another chapter in their plan to beautify their main building on Stone. While it's still in the rough stages, they hope to start a community mural project this fall.

José Zozaya is an anchor and reporter for KGUN 9. Before arriving in southern Arizona, José worked in Omaha, Nebraska where he covered issues ranging from local, state and federal elections, to toxic chemical spills, and community programs impacting immigrant families. Share your story ideas and important issues with José by emailing or by connecting on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.