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Meet Meredith Alexander of Milk + Bookies in Santa Monica

Today we’d like to introduce you to Meredith Alexander.

Meredith, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Having small children is overwhelming. I love the Gandhi quote, “lose yourself in service to others”, so that’s what our family set out to do. In 2004, I had a burning desire to spend family time doing meaningful things – like helping others. 80% of all adults who give back, either financially or volunteering their time, do so because they were exposed to service as a child, and I wanted my sons to know the joy of helping as well as the responsibility we all share to make the world better than we found it.

I figured that there must be some charities putting together activities for families like making sack lunches for the homeless or things like that. I couldn’t find any of these organized activities, so I started one myself. I invited all our friends with small kids to meet at Storyopolis children’s bookstore on Robertson (now defunct). I called this event “Milk + Bookies”. I asked each family to pick out and purchase a copy of their favorite book from home, the children can inscribe it (even a scribble of a crayon on a bookplate) and we donated them all to a local organization servicing families in need.

From there, it was a fast build to a national 501(c)3. I then, created the “Bookies Box” tool-kit so that families all over could have this kind of “book-raiser”. The box was sold to families for birthday parties as well as Girl Scout troops for community service badges. These boxes had the bookplate stickers, the signage for the donation box, buttons, stickers, decorative pennants, suggested recipient groups in their zip code, letters to the children participating about how they are making a difference and a letter for parents to talk to their kids about the importance of giving.

After ten years with our successful Bookies Box program in place, we discovered that the students in our backyard, in South Central LA, were the MOST underserved in the country and the inequality in education was staggering. So I shut down the Box program and focused our energies on the “leaders + readers” and “choose + keep” book fairs where we gathered books from Los Angeles private schools and well funded public schools in a book drive to then distribute them to the Title 1 elementary schools in Watts, Compton, and Lynwood.

Today, we have donated almost 600,000 books and (hopefully) inspired 172,000 kids whom we call “future philanthropists”, the donors of these books, to make a positive difference in their world.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Fundraising is never easy, so I’d say that the most obvious hurdle in any non-profit would be collecting donations to run operations. But, for me, the biggest, and most disappointing hurdle was trying to activate other people to get involved and continually being let down by their lack of participation. Some of our board members, event committee members, and other peers never had the same amount of enthusiasm that I did, which was only natural, but I took it personally time and time again. That was a big lesson!

Please tell us about Milk + Bookies.
Someone, once criticized me, by saying, “you can’t run a company on hugs and smiles”. And although it was meant to be unkind, I thought it was the greatest compliment of all time! I DO run Milk + Bookies on hugs and smiles, I have a great time with my employees, and make sure they feel appreciated and valued as much as possible.

I don’t have a business background (I used to be a floral designer), so I’ve had to learn on the job and I think that might be one of my biggest assets. It’s been great coming into a situation with only my passion for it – no pre-conceived notions of how things “should” be done, and follow my gut at each turn.

What I’m most proud of at Milk + Bookies is that it’s a charity that not only helps those in need (of books) but also has great emphasis around the giver – instilling the seeds of giving into small children, letting them have that wonderful experience and hoping that they recreate that for themselves for the rest of their lives.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
I might say that some of my favorite memories from my childhood were when my mom would take my brother and me to the theater, symphony or ballet and we would get very dressed up to go downtown. It seemed like everything we went to was always at The Dorothy Chandler Pavillion.

Contact Info:

  • Website: www.milkandbookies.org
  • Email: info@milkandbookies.org
  • Instagram: @milkandbookies
  • Facebook: @milkandbookies
  • Twitter: @milkandbookies


Image Credit:

Gretchen Easton

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