In 1998 Vergennes Rotary President Scott Gaines persuaded his club into starting a summer literacy project titled Booked for Bikes. During his past two years as club president, Rotary District 7850 had been asking clubs to create a literacy project. We didn’t have any money in our club budget but that wasn’t a problem. We started a partnership with the local Boys & Girls Club in town which had the audience we needed to kick start a kid’s summer reading program. We realized that our budgetary needs were minimal and devised a plan to get local businesses to help support our project. We collected approx. $ 200 from our local business contacts and we kick started our program. The program intent was to create summer time reading in school age kids age 6 – 13, which was a natural fit for our program partner the Vergennes Boys & Girls Club, since this was the similar age group of their participants. Our program started as soon as our local schools completed their academic year which is mid June and we used Vergennes Day as our end date. Vergennes Day is the last Sat. in Aug. which symbolizes the end of summer.

Our program content – It was a simple raffle entry. For every book read you could enter a raffle to win a bicycle. Once a week from mid June up until Vergennes Day, kids can enter their weekly raffle entry noting the books that they had read. At the end of the drawing period we would gather the kids around at the B & G club and draw the winners name out of a Rotary hat…. Yes, another chance to plug Rotary. Though we may have only had 20 kids in attendance that first year, the intensity of that first drawing was incredible. The 20+- kids who participated read 65 books that summer. In the eyes of the participants, this program was a winner and so the story begins some 16 years later……

Now in 2013 we certainly have evolved a bit. We now have a line item budget to support our program each year. Instead of giving away one bicycle, we choose 7 bike winners. We broadened our kid’s base by partnering with the Bixby Memorial Free Library in Vergennes. Rachel Plant, the libraries Youth Services Librarian had an existing summer reading program for children in the greater Vergennes Area. What a perfect fit for our program. We also continued our partnership with Earl’s Cyclery in Williston, a full service bicycle shop, to obtain quality bicycles at a discounted price. I believe our first Mountain bicycle cost around $ 75, and this year’s costs ranged from $ 235 to as high as $ 290 for a 13 yr. old size bike. Our local Kids Safe affiliate continues to be involved to help provide bicycle helmets and bike safety.

Needless to say our program is a household brand name for our local kids. We now have 65 winners in our greater Vergennes area with a new Mountain Bike, a properly fitted bike helmet, and a sense of pride and accomplishment for just reading books during the summer months. Our participation numbers are incredible. We consistently draw over 200 children from our local schools to read throughout the summer months. Since our inception in 98’ our kids have read well over 7,000 books.

We use Vergennes Day as our raffle drawing date due to the number of people gathered on our City Green for the day’s celebration. We have hundreds of people in our City Park visiting vendors throughout the park. We get a great opportunity to speak in front of a captive audience and tell our story about Booked for Bikes. It’s very evident the program has great merit by the number of children present the day of the drawing. I believe this past year we had 4 out of the 7 winners present in the park. We had some pretty happy young kids, including their parents.

We conclude our program by having a Pizza Party at the Bixby Library. Yes, a party in the Library….hard to believe. It was another chance to bring our winners and their families back into a wonderful historic building and incredible resource for Vergennes Area families. When we first started I would have the one bicycle present at the drawing. Now we have a bicycle present inside the library for our kids and families to see to help promote the program. Our winners are given an award certificate along with instructions and directions to the bike shop. It’s so much fun telling them what they’re about to experience. Picture them walking into the door of a huge bicycle shop, knowing that you are about to pick out your own Mountain bicycle. A store technician works with the winners and their parents to help fit them to the proper size bike of their choosing. Needless to say the pictures and cards we receive back from our winners are priceless.

We’re extremely grateful for our partnerships. Without them we wouldn’t be able to make this program such a success. Rachel Plant at the Bixby library does such a great job of helping promote the program, our bicycle vendor Earl’s Cyclery provides a full service bike shop for kids to choose their own bikes, and Kid’s Safe of Addison County help by providing properly fitted new bike helmets and teaching bike safety. A very rewarding program all the way around.

Vergennes Rotary Booked for Bikes Chair

Scott W. Gaines, Past. Pres. 96’ – 98’