BFA Volunteer Superstar: Shelly Kacergis

Books For Africa relies on thousands of volunteers to handle the sorting and packaging of a variety of books. Among our amazing volunteers, Shelly Kacergis's passion and dedication stand out; Shelly has donated over 500 hours of her time to BFA!. A resident of Atlanta for thirty-two years and a retired community bank employee, she enjoys hands-on volunteer work in addition to financially supporting causes she supports. When Shelly’s not swinging a racket on the tennis court you can find her at BFA sorting the tables to make sure each book is in its proper section, and making sure all plastic items are thrown away or collected for recycling.

How did she discover and choose BFA to serve as a dedicated volunteer? Well, she kind of stumbled upon it. “I found it in a round-a-bout way,” she said. During one of her visits to Africa she came across a BFA newsletter. Coincidentally, one of the people she was traveling with had collected and donated books to BFA in the past. Surprisingly, BFA was around the corner from Shelly, and she didn’t even know it!

Shelly doesn’t remember the exact date when she started volunteering, but she remembers what she was wearing—a shirt with a giraffe and Kenya written on it. She also remembers what a huge impression BFA left on her after her first visit. “As a businessperson I was impressed by how efficient it seemed,” she stated. The grunt work of building a pallet of books was amazing and satisfying to her. “When you pack a pallet, you can see the fruits of your labor.” But it’s not all about labor to Shelly. Some may think working in the BFA warehouse is a simple job – but not Shelly. She knows that volunteers need to consider how these books will work in Africa. Are they too western? Are they too old? Are the reference materials outdated?

“I immediately felt home here,” Shelly commented. That shouldn’t be a surprise due to her visits to Kenya with Little Boost Children Fund. These visits consist of trips to rural areas where there are meetings with mothers, children, and schools. Unfortunately, some of these schools have no books or electricity. “It was a cultural immersion.” These trips made her realize firsthand what books were needed, enjoyed, and appreciated and that education was of major importance. So, as she sorts and packs, she imagines the happy looks on the children’s faces when they receive books. One book she’s especially ecstatic to see being sent is Are You, My Mother? written and illustrated by P.D. Eastman. While reading it to a group of 2nd graders, Shelly was amused and delighted by how the kids interacted with her as she read. The students shouting, “Are you, my mother?” every time she turned the page.

Volunteering at BFA has made Shelly more social. Although she doesn’t consider herself an introvert, she never really sought out conversations. Yet, she’s had some interesting discussions and has formed some fond friendships at the BFA Warehouse. “I enjoy meeting people from different backgrounds.” In fact, James Hall, a member of the warehouse staff, introduced her to a Clarkston resident originally from Nairobi. “I’ve made connections by just being around.”

BFA is deeply grateful to Shelly, and all our wonderful volunteers who take part in our mission to end the book famine in Africa. Thank you Shelly!