Wednesday, June 19th, 2013
By Margie Wuebker
Local teen provides books to kids in need
  ST. HENRY - Hanna Tumbusch began providing books to underprivileged children five years ago as part of a 4-H project.
Today the St. Henry High School senior heads Pages for Progress Inc., a non-profit organization that has donated more than 7,000 books throughout the state.
"I love to read, and there were always books at my house," the 17-year-old said. "Not everybody is that fortunate."
Tumbusch, a member of St. Henry Lassies & Lads 4-H Club, launched the effort as part of a self-directed project that earned outstanding and best of class honors at the Mercer County Fair. She also participated at the Ohio State Fair.
"I needed a platform the following year for the Miss Lake Festival Outstanding Teen Pageant," she said. "I chose to promote Pages for Progress as a means of increasing literacy for children in grades preschool through five."
She has used the platform en route to winning outstanding teen titles in Miss West Central Ohio, Miss Maumee Valley and Miss Mansfield pageants.
Her latest donation of more than 500 books was Sunday in Mansfield, with the recipients being youngsters along the Miss Ohio parade route. Armed with the same platform, she competes for the state outstanding teen title today.
"Something that began here at home grows stronger with each pageant," she said. "Statistics show 14 percent or nearly 32 million adults in the United States cannot read. We need to promote literacy at a young age as a means of bringing down those numbers."
Tumbusch initially contacted libraries in St. Henry, Coldwater, Chickasaw, Fort Recovery, Minster, New Bremen and Van Wert about donating children's books no longer needed in their collections. She also took her message to community organizations and the outpouring of support was overwhelming.
"Everyone has been so generous with donations of new and gently used books," she said. "We are so fortunate in this area. In the course of making donations I have seen school libraries that do not have row after row of books."
Tumbusch, the daughter of Kevin and Sheila Tumbusch, selects recipient schools based on Internet research. She looks for those that need help in boosting reading scores and then contacts administrators.
Four schools in the Columbus area have received books through Pages for Progress and this year she selected an elementary school in the Mansfield area.
"Each child gets to choose two books to spark their interest," she said. "The generosity of donors gives them everything from SpongeBob to Sesame Street and beyond."
Tumbusch has seen youngsters cradling books as if they were rare treasure. Most make their selections quickly, while others linger over the choices.
"It's like Christmas morning," she said. "The students are so excited and happy."
Correspondence from grateful parents is equally heartwarming. One woman wrote that her children came home with 10 books to share. Having something other than textbooks in the house was a new experience.
Looking ahead, Tumbusch envisions a career in teaching or broadcasting. She vows to continue Pages for Progress as she heads to college and future pageants.
"It's so neat finding donated books on my doorstep because they will help a child somewhere develop a love of reading," she said. "Together we can combat illiteracy one child at a time."
Anyone interested in donating new or gently used children's books should contact Tumbusch at 419-678-2649.
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