Collecting for others | August 7, 2009 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Living - August 7, 2009

Collecting for others

Rounding up goods for the barrios takes on a life of its own

by Susan Astbury

Stuart Moore, 17, set himself a bookish goal. It's not about reading. He wants to collect more items than anyone ever has to donate to Books for the Barrios.

Moore has collected approximately 1,100 National Geographic magazines; 10,000 books; countless arts and crafts supplies; about 2,000 tennis balls; 67 pounds of Legos; games; puzzles; toys; stuffed animals; office and school supplies; 694 carpet squares; and sports equipment.

It started one day in April when Stuart, who lives in Alamo, was on spring break.

"I wanted to do volunteer work to help the troops as well as needy children," said Stuart, a senior at Las Lomas High School. "So I went online and found Books for the Barrios and this happened to do both."

Stuart had found his niche.

"When we called Books for the Barrios, they said they needed help with packaging," Stuart said. "We drove over to their warehouse in Concord and I was wearing an Annapolis T-shirt. The owner, Dan Harrington, who is a Naval Academy graduate, came out and started talking to me." One of Stuart's aspirations is to attend the Naval Academy.

Books for the Barrios was founded in 1981 by former Navy pilot Harrington, his wife Nancy and other U.S. families who were stationed in the Philippines. It organizes shiploads of items to give to American forces stationed in conflict areas around the world for distribution to local children and schools.

Books for the Barrios has sent more than 12 million books overseas, trained teachers in developing countries, and established more than 50 schools reaching millions of children around the world.

"It makes a really big difference for the kids over there, especially being educated, making it safer and having better relationships with our troops," said Stuart. "And, it's just this little organization with a warehouse in Concord."

Stuart left the Books for Barrios warehouse that April day and decided that his objective was to surpass all the other contributors with what he collects. "It was my goal and I'm getting there," he said.

Stuart spends several hours each week scouring Craig's List for free items from rummage and garage sales. Then he sends e-mails to ask if they are willing to donate.

"I look for companies that are going out of business; even a thousand envelopes can be used as scratch paper. The kids don't have enough paper to write on," he explained. "We collect used tennis balls, carpet squares just so the children can sit on them in the classroom, or anything that's kid-oriented and can be used for an arts and crafts project. Everything counts."

Stuart's mother, Laura Moore, is literally the driving force behind Stuart since he's still working on getting his driver's license.

"Some days my mom and I will go out driving around for four or five hours," said Stuart. "We'll go out and collect the items, filling up our car until we don't have any more room. We do all the sorting and boxing so literally we dump off the boxes at the warehouse and it's all ready for them."

Dan Harrington said that Stuart is like Johnny Appleseed. "He's gotten sports equipment and 10,000 kid's books."

"Clean out your closets and shoot the items over to our warehouse," Harrington urges everyone. "The organization is run by the skin of our teeth."

Harrington had mentioned to Stuart that he wanted to start a P.E. program and needed sports uniforms especially for soccer, which is really popular in developing countries. Stuart came up with the idea to collect uniforms from graduating eighth-graders. He contacted middle school principals in the area and the result was an overwhelming 1,000 pounds of uniforms.

"Right before my last final on my last day of school at 6:30 a.m. my mom and I drove around and collected four full mini-van loads of uniforms," Stuart said.

Stuart and his mom agreed that one of the best parts about the collection is that Dutch Girl Cleaners in Walnut Creek donated its laundry service and washed them for free. Michelle Windsor, general manager of the all-green cleaners in Walnut Creek, said that Laura Moore is a regular customer and she asked how much they would charge to launder the uniforms.

"So we said that we would donate our services," said Windsor. "We were expecting a couple of boxes and then the truckloads started rolling in. Every employee was in shock."

To clean the approximately 2,400 pieces of clothing took about two weeks and 200 hours of washing, drying, sorting, folding and stacking. The cost would have been about $4,000. Many of the employees donated their time.

"Stuart is so important because he has the guts to stand up in front of middle schools, and he showed up with 1,000 jerseys," said Harrington. "The soldiers can go there and show them how to set up a soccer league."

Stuart also spends time at Richard Lee's East West Kung Fu school in Alamo preparing to compete in his second world championship in Germany in September.

"Stuart is a very disciplined kid," said Laura Moore. "The kung fu has instilled self awareness, self control as well as discipline."

He is entering his senior year of high school and hopes to go to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. He said that after a visit he realized it was the perfect place for him.

"It had always interested me to be a military officer. I thought I'd go to the Naval Academy to do something that's bigger than myself," he explained. "It's not just me going to college for me. I'm going there to serve and help defend my country. I'm going to be a part of something bigger."

Stuart plans to continue his volunteer work for Books for the Barrios.

"I made a commitment to Dan and his wife Nancy and they know me personally now. So if I was to slack off, it would reflect poorly on me and I don't want that to happen," he said. "I want to show that I will be here and I can help them out and be a valuable asset. We all have to chip in and do our part."

Books for the Barrios is located at 2350 Whitman Road, Suite D, in Concord. Telephone 687-7701 or visit