Nearly two dozen Pratt & Whitney AeroPower employees joined forces with the United Way on June 21 during an annual Virtual Book Drive that provided thousands of summer reading books to low-income children throughout San Diego County.
P&W AeroPower donated over 2,000 bilingual books to the virtual drive, which kicked off in March and was targeted to children ages three to eight. As part of the United Way's Day of Action - the culmination of the book drive - employees packaged the books and wrote inspirational notes to encourage children to foster a love of reading.
"We are very proud to contribute to this worthy cause and ensure local children have access to books during the summer months," said Eileen P. Drake, vice president and general manager, Pratt & Whitney AeroPower. "A big thanks goes out to all our employees who graciously donated their time and energy to help make a difference in the community."
P&W AeroPower was one of three major company sponsors for the San Diego Virtual Book Drive; the others were Geico and California American Water. During the Day of Action, which was held at the Jacob & Cushman Food Bank, approximately 10 organizations were on hand to package more than 4,000 books, with each group working on assembly lines set up at three tables. The volunteers stuffed bookmarks and parenting tip flyers into the books, and then packed the bags into crates for distribution to the children.
"In the spirit of competitiveness with the other companies, we took full advantage of our manufacturing experience to ensure a seamless, efficient process," said Scott Hasser, manager, Supplier Quality, P&W AeroPower. "It was also a great opportunity to interact with employees at all levels on a personal basis, from our senior leaders to shop floor workers."
Tom Diot, turbine technician and shop lead, noted that the P&W AeroPower volunteers worked hard yet had fun. "It was a true teamwork effort and very enjoyable. In fact, our company team finished first because we treated this as a manufacturing process - even jokingly using terminology such as 'turn back' if a bookmark, for instance, was not placed in the book prior to stuffing it into a bag."
Prior to the Day of Action, all P&W AeroPower employees were asked to write inspirational notes on the bookmarks, including messages such as "Reading takes you places you've never been before," and "You travel to magical places with a book."
"It was particularly rewarding knowing that these gifts will represent the very first book for many children," said Diot. "It was a real pleasure having this opportunity to make a positive impact on children's lives in our community by encouraging them to read and continue learning during the summer."
According to the United Way, more than 24 percent of San Diego County fourth graders are not reading proficiently and over half of the county's students are considered "economically disadvantaged." Since fourth grade is a critical year when children switch from "learning to read" to "reading to learn," the drive was targeted to kindergartners through third-graders. In total, the Virtual Book Drive raised enough funds to purchase over 25,000 books, with each book averaging only $2.50 each.
Proceeds from the book drive purchased five different books: "Are You My Mother?"/ "Eres Tú Mi Mama?"; "Gossie"/ "Gansi"; and "A Birthday Box"/ "Mi Caja de Cumpleaños" for children up to age three and "Big, Big Wall"/ "No Puedo Bajar" and "Daniel's Mystery Egg"/ "El Misterioso Huevo de Daniel."