COMMUNITY BUILDER: Midlands woman donates thousands of books to kids statewide

((Source: WIS))
Updated: Oct. 17, 2018 at 11:16 PM EDT
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BATESBURG-LEESVILLE, SC (WIS) – It’s a game of word play but not in the traditional sense of the phrase.

“I go to thrift stores and the flea market,” said Joan Talley. “Thrift stores work with me mostly. I average about 10 cents a book is my goal.”

A game of “how low can you go” on pricing for used books. Many of these books have seen the test of time and need some sprucing up before making their way to a new home.

“I go 50 cents for the good ones or if I’m in a mood where I have to shop, but I try to spend 10 cents each,” Talley said.

She tries to see how many she can get for how little, hauling the thousands of books up her own stairs at home before cleaning and labeling them by grade and reading level.

“These books, they’re fabulous,” Talley said. “Like, ‘Sheep in a Jeep!’ I mean, it’s a simple book but so cute! They’ve gotten so creative in the color, the artwork. I just love books.”

The game of finding the cheapest gems quickly became a hobby – and then a mission. Lexington School District Three Superintendent Dr. Randall Gary has seen that evolution firsthand. We caught up with him as he unloaded a carload of books from Ms. Talley at Batesburg-Leesville Elementary School.

“This is 1,000 books, according to her count,” Dr. Gary said. “They’re books, they’re cleaned, she’s marked them with grade level reading… so we’ll know how to target the students that get them.”

She’s delivered books to eight districts, including Lexington Three, where Superintendent Dr. Gary has been working with her for years, helping guide her next delivery to a school or district that is in desperate need of new books.

“She sees there’s a need,” Dr. Gary said. “There are books that are not being used and there are kids that need books.”

It’s why Dr. Gary nominated Ms. Talley as our latest Community Builder in partnership with Mungo Homes.

“She is a true community builder,” Dr. Gary said. “She does not do this for any reward at all. She does it all out of the kindness and goodness of her heart. I think that’s what makes anybody special.”

The 1,000 books will make a huge impact, but that number pales in comparison to the 60,000 total books she’s donated across the state.

“I’d like to see the kids do well in school,” Talley said. “And if you can read, you’re gonna do better. It just helps in all areas of life.”

Because a true builder knows: a lifetime of success starts with the simplest of building blocks.

Talley says the $1,000 dollars she receives with her award will allow her to buy thousands more books.

If you’d like to nominate someone who is making a difference in your community, head over to

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