Towson scout's book drive delivers volumes to nonprofit

Towson scout collects 6,400 books for charity

On Tuesday, the books were still arriving at Ray Howington's house in Towson.

The latest bunch included 12 childrens' titles, among them "A Book Of Dreamland Stories," "The Real Mother Goose" and "Poems to Read to the Very Young."

For his Eagle Scout project, Howington, 17, reached out to Armagh Village and other nearby neighbors, seeking donations for The Maryland Book Bank.

His goal was to collect 1,000 books. When he made his delivery to the Baltimore-based nonprofit, he needed a 17-foot moving truck to haul the 6,400-plus books he collected.

The Book Bank, which gives books to children, families, teachers and schools throughout the state, said it is one of the largest donations by an individual in its 20-year history.

Howington "took the bull by the horns" for the project and did a good job staying in touch with the organization about the donation, said Mark Feiring, the executive director.

Howington, who has volunteered at the Book Bank in the past to earn a Boy Scout merit badge, said he decided to continue his service for his Eagle Scout project.

"I think it's a really good way to promote learning for children," said Howington, who joined Cub Scouts in elementary school and continued to become a Boy Scout.

Children in low-income households have an average of one book at home, while children in middle-income households have an average of 54 books — bridging that gap is essential to the bank's mission, according to Feiring.

Though the bank's focus is children, the group accepts all books, and sells books for adults to fund the organization, which has a $500,000 annual budget, Feiring said. Each year they receive hundreds of thousands of books, Feiring said, and in 2016 they distributed 146,000 books. Their goal is to double that figure in 2017.

The Book Bank has had large donations from groups in the past of as much as 28,000 books, however Feiring said a donation from a single person has never been more than 2,000.

Howington and volunteers canvassed Armagh Village, Rodgers Forge, Gaywood, Rodgers Choice and a part of West Towson, on Feb. 4, handing out fliers asking residents to contact the scout if they had books to give. More than 125 households responded.

A week later, Howington and volunteers collected the books.

Howington and his parents, Tresa and Rick, planned to take the books in their car to the book bank, in downtown Baltimore inside the Baltimore Sun building. When they saw the response, however, they rented a 17-foot moving truck, and according to Rick Howington, the truck was full.

Feiring said the group has received donations through both Boy and Girl Scouts in the past. Feiring said he wasn't surprised by the size of the donation, adding that he often warns people organizing book drives to expect a big response.

"All of our books come from donations," Feiring said. "Without them, we simply wouldn't be able to exist."

Showing leadership skills is one of the marks of a good Eagle Scout project, according to Baltimore Area Council Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Scout Executive Manny Fonseca. There is no minimum or maximum requirement for an Eagle Scout project, he said, the project needs to have a meaningful and lasting impact on the community, and must show a scout's leadership ability.

While Fonseca wasn't familiar with Howington's project, he said planning and recruiting friends for a project, as Howington did, is important. Last year his council, which includes Baltimore City and the five surrounding counties, named 535 Eagle Scouts out of roughly 8,000 eligible Boy Scouts, he said. Nationally 3 or 4 percent of scouts become Eagles, he added.

"Some scouts, like Ray, really have a vision and go above and beyond," Fonseca said.

Howington, a senior at Concordia Preparatory School, still needs to get additional merit badges and take several other steps before he becomes an Eagle Scout.

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