In 2021, we salvaged and distributed 4.5 tons of books from Valley Community for Recycling Solutions, which is about 20,000 books. Through our partnership with VCRS, we are able to keep these books in our community.
The Mat-Su Health Foundation provided us with our first grant for bookcases and office supplies.
The Palmer Community Foundation provided us with a grant to purchase lumber and materials for bookcases, which will be built by students in the woodshop class at the Mat-Su Career and Technical High School.
Saltchuk owns Northern Air Cargo and TOTE Maritime a provided us with a monetary donation.
Northern Air Cargo has provided multiple shipments of books to Bethel and surrounding villages.
Ravn Alaska provided shipment of books to Homer. From there, Smokey Bay Air took the books to Nanwalek.
Grant Air provided shipment of books to villages in the Bethel region.
Janet Kincaid: Janet, who is a local business owner, paid for the cost of bookcases and donated bookcase space in both Vagabond Blues and the Valley Hotel. These two bookcases were the first BLBP bookcases, which started our mission of putting free books into the hands of appreciative readers.
Alex Papasavas: Alexis the owner of Turkey Red Restaurant. She hosted the festival of the books, by allowing us to use the Turkey Red Banquet Room and hosts a very nice custom bookcase built by Bill Schmidtkunz.
Fireside Books: Maryanne owns Fireside Books in Palmer. Maryanne recently read excerpts from Helene Hanff’s 84 Charing Cross Road, a compilation of twenty years of correspondence between a discriminating bookstore reader and a bookstore owner, at the recent Palmer Festival of the Books.
U-Haul: The U-Haul Company donated free storage space for books that were donated to the project by the Mat-Su School District Warehouse.
Sarah Welton: Sarah is is a member of the BLBP Board and the Pastor of the Church of the Covenant/Meeting House. Sarah has also served for many years as a Mat-Su Borough School Board and the VCRS board. Sarah has been instrumental in this project, having donated Meeting House space, which has enabled us to continue to clean, sort, and distribute books on a near-daily basis.
Head Start CCS: Head Start teachers have been instrumental in getting the word out to homeschool families about this project,
We are always looking for volunteers to assist with salvaging, sorting, categorizing, cleaning, and distributing books. Right now we are also seeking a social media liaison. The following individuals have contributed greatly to this now very well-known community venture:
Alys Culhane: Alys is the founder and Executive Director of the Bright Lights Book Project. Alys has an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and a PhD in English composition and rhetoric from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Alys lives off the grid with her five chickens, four horses, three goats, two dogs, and one husband. As the Executive Directorof the Bright Lights Book Project, Alys salvages, sorts, categorizes, cleans, and distributes books locally. She also keeps in contact with appreciative readers, sponsors, supporters, volunteers, and all others interested in this project. You can see her website here: www.alysculhane.com
Bill Schmidtkunz: The owner of Matanuska Woodworks is a master craftsman who built our first two bookcases, which are in the Valley Hotel lobby and the Vagabond Blues hallway. His most recent bookcase for the project is a custom built bookcase for Turkey Red Restaurant. Bill salvages books on Saturday at Valley Community for Recycling Solutions and distributes books locally. The Sutton resident is also an accomplished poet: his poem “Laura” received honor mention (second place) in the 2021 Alaska Daily News contest.
Pete Praetorius: Pete has a PhD in Rhetoric and Technical Communication from Michigan Technological University and teaches technical communication and public speaking courses at nearby Mat-Su College. Pete is is a founding member of the Bright Lights Book Project. He is our Treasurer, salvages books with Bill on Saturdays at VCRS, and distributes books locally. In addition to serving on the BLBP board, Pete is a board member of VCRS. He is the Project website designer.
Milena Sevigny: Milena is the Bright Lights Book Project Board President. During her day job, Milena is the Community Relations Program Manager for TOTE Maritime, and through TOTE is a BLBP partner. She has worked with TOTE and the BookWaves Book Coalition and has, witth the assistance of numerous volunteers, distributed books to several Alaskan villages. Milena, in seeing a commonality between our project and hers, continues to give us an assist in categorizing, cleaning, and distributing BLBP books and is also a board member of VCRS.
Robert Wallis: Robert is a member of the BLBP Board and works as a mental health clinician for AKBH Child and Family Center. He is also a licensed practicioner at the Alaska Center for Spiritual Living. Robert is also a board member of VCRS.
Nan Potts: Nan and the words “community involvement” are synonymous terms. She has, for instance, encouraged others to follow her lead and try their hand at writing, sculpting, and acting. Nan salvages, sorts, cleans, categorizes, and distributes books. She designed our tee shirt logo and has written several articles about our project.
Lois Liebing: Lois is a former elementary school teacher. She is therefore very familiar with the genre of children’s books. She cleans and categorizes children’s books.
Sheila Aay: Sheila, who has a Master’s Degree in Literature, has assisted in sorting and categorizing hundreds of children and young adult books. She wears many hats, as became apparent in the November 2021 Festival of the Books when she gave a performance in which she, talking about genre, wore many hats.
Sheila as Dilly Dally
Bea Adler: Bea is the Bright Lights Book Project Board Secretary and editor, a task in which she draws upon her many years of teaching grant writing at Mat-Su College and proposal writing for numerous organizations including the Mat-Su Borough and the Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry. Bea is currently working on a memoir about her very non-linear life.
Hillary Saffron: Hillary is a local writer, stage entertainer, and actress who read the Christmas Armadillo at the recent festival of the books
Carol McNamara: Carol is a Sutton resident and past librarian for the Sutton Library. She has been involved with local literacy efforts for two decades. In the summer of 2021, she assisted in organizing two children’s programs, a BLBP auction, and a local reading at the Sutton Library. She also lent her artistic expertise to this project.
Sarah Gotschall: Sarah is an elementary school teacher at JBER. She has lent her literacy-related expertise to this project, by including BLBP books into her curriculum program.
Valley Center for Recycling Solutions (VCRS)
Friends of the Homer Library
Friends of the Wasilla Library
The Willow Point Senior Apartments
Mat-Su School District Warehouse
Numerous local readers
Mike Chmielewski, Big Cabbage Radio
Jacob Mann, The Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman Newspaper
Barbara Hunt, Palmer Buzz Feed
Josh Fryfogle, The People’s Paper/Make a Scene/Hatcher Pass Radio