An Ahwatukee woman who belongs to the Sun Lakes-based Gila Butte Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution has picked up several honors for the book drives she has organized that have put more than 40,000 books in the hands of children.
Suellen Eyre, a retired reading teacher, started five years ago to collect books for children and distributing them at Matthews Crossing Food Bank, which was started about 20 years ago by St. Matthews Episcopal Church in Chandler.
Chapter spokeswoman Deborah Good-acre said October is service month for the DAR and that the Gila Butter 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.
At Matthews Crossing Food Bank, she said, children are allowed to select a book for 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 and 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,” Goodacre said. “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 work space.”
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,” the woman said.
Eyre 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,” Eyre recalled.
In the almost five years the book drive has been in existence, Eyre has helped to distribute almost 40,000 books for children from infancy to 8th grade.
Eyre was nominated for and received the Literacy Promotion Committee Award from NSDAR in 2018. Of the 63 entries for the nationwide award, Suellen came out on top.
“Suellen was nominated for her second award through the efforts of close friend and fellow DAR member Carole Jones,” Goodacre said.
In October 2019, Eyre 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,’” Goodacre said.