Two college students from Rochester work together to donate 5,000 books to kids in need


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Two Our Lady of Mercy High Schools graduates used their spare time to give back to the community.

While their colleges were shut down, they decided to resurrect an old high school project, by helping to get books to Rochester kids in need.

It almost reads like a fairy tale…

Once upon a time, two young women — Grace Fjermedal and Katie Hobler — had a wagon. And in this little red wagon, they collected books, and delivered them all across magical land of Rochester.

“We brought the wagon around to every classroom and it was a really amazing experience to be able to interact with the teachers and the students,” said Fjermedal, referring to her experience at School No. 17.

Then, they moved to kingdoms far away. One in the land of Notre Dame (Fjermedal), and Katie to the other in the land of the tigers (RIT).

But then a “plague” swept across the world, and got it all a-twirled.

“It is a little bit overwhelming,” Fjermedal said with pained laughter. “(Its) absolutely horrible.”

Kids could no longer play, stuck inside, one could say. Kids couldn’t always read, but they were always in need.

“Katie and I volunteered in difference capacities,” Fjermedal said. “That really made me aware of the necessities of reading materials and literary resources for those students and how passionate and excited they were to read and learn.”

“We were talking about how horrible it was for students in that scenario who have nothing at home, libraries are closed,” Hobler said. “How can they continue learning then they’re already so far behind?”

The two best friends, Katie and Grace, started a proverbial race, to get books from across the land, to help the knowledge of kids expand. The books came from lands near and far, to keep kids minds both full and ajar.

“We partnered with the Rochester Education Foundation, and through that program we were able to bring our books there and sort them, and they found places that would take the books,” Hobler said.

The quest is done, the race is run, over five thousand book collected, and thousands of minds protected.

And Katie and Grace… Each put on a happy face.

“It was really amazing to see how our little idea, the community brought it to life,” Hobler said. “I’m just happy we can make a difference in the lives of people in Rochester.”

But as adults know, there’s always more to a fairy tale. Both friends are working on their degrees in the midst of a pandemic; Fjermedal is studying English, Pre-Health, and Educational Schooling and Society, while Hobler is studying New Media Design and psychology.

So they were very grateful for a little help from their friends. The REF provided a place to sort the mostly K-12 books, after the set up book pickups from dozens of friends, family members, and people in the community.

“REF also had a contact through the Target in Webster, so Target donated over a 1,000 books,” Fjermedal said.

Fjermedal and Hobler also made a connection with JT Jacus, who has known the two for over a decade.

“I have an eight year old daughter at Harley,” he said. “We’re pretty committed to the Rochester area.”

He’s a vice president at M&T Bank who lives in Baltimore. And like Fjermedal and Hobler, he has spent plenty of time volunteering in RCSD schools, seeing how a low socio-economic status can affect kids.

Earlier in the year, M&T started working with Discover Books. Jacus worked with Discover Books, who ended up donating almost 1,500 books to the cause.

In total, Grace and Katie’s Book Wagon donated 5,130 books to the Rochester area. But both of them say that they hope that this is just the first chapter.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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