Laurie Holding is an internationally awarded poet, children’s book author, and mother of five, whose love of literature served as the foundation for her work as a book drive organizer.
At 61 years old, Laurie lives in the Village of Sewickley, PA. After a career in selling and managing Merchant Services portfolios for banks, then being Advertising Advisor to the University of Pittsburgh daily newspaper, she has become a full-time writer. Laurie has co-authored two children’s books about her dog, Tyrion’s Tale and Tyrion’s Town. Her other works include a space opera novel and three other books, all in different genres, that are in progress. Additionally, her entries into poetry and sonnet contests have awarded her international acclaim. She is not only always writing, but constantly engaged in reading as well, as she walks five miles a day to listen to books and reads 15-20 books at any one time.
Laurie always wanted to handle books. “Literacy is such a foundation for all types of success in this world. Everyone deserves to know the answers to their questions; I can’t imagine not being able to look things up, not to be able to imagine I’m somewhere else, someone else, through the magic of words.”
After finding out about ALP through an Oprah magazine feature, she had finally found the chance she had been looking for. From 2014 to 2019 Laurie volunteered for three different libraries in Lesotho, South Africa, and Ghana. Her experience as a book drive organizer has been nothing less than transformative.
“I was inspired by all three of my libraries, just by seeing the kindness offered to me, people going out of their ways to donate books, help with raising funds etc. A perfect stranger went online to find a project to honor the birthday of Nelson Mandela during that first library and found my name […] Now, that perfect stranger is a very close friend. [..] When we moved here to this little town in 2018, we met our next door neighbors who are new to our country, straight from Benin, a little country very close to Ghana. They loved helping us with that Ghana library, packing boxes and teaching their children to always be giving back. Now, they too are very dear friends, and they feel more connected to our community because they had such a great opportunity to be of service.”
Volunteering had also helped shift Laurie’s perspective towards the issue of global literacy. “I have never taken books for granted. Besides my family, they are what matters most to me as far as tangible ‘things’. They represent ideas and dreams, answers and new questions to me, and I can’t imagine a world without reading. So when I think about children who have to walk to the next village to even see a book, if they’re lucky, it boggles my mind.”
Her advice to future book drive organizers includes working with independent bookstores and small community libraries more, as well as thinking outside the box when it comes to collecting quality books. “The last library specifically asked for teaching supplemental materials, and Half-Price Books was able to supply me with chemistry flashcards, human anatomy work books, lots of reading and math teaching aids, and I’m pretty sure they gave me a deal on pricing.”
Ultimately, Laurie’s time with African Library Project has served a crucial role in not only bettering her life, but in allowing her to serve others. “I think it’s our human purpose to serve others and find joy in even the smallest of kindnesses. Collecting 1,000 books and connecting with others along the way who want to pitch in makes us realize how lucky we are, and that feeling, that gratitude, sustains us when hard times hit us.”