Look, I know who you are. I know what you have. In fact, I know you have too much of it. Ideally, you want to hang onto it until the end of time. You want it there in case you ever need it again. And some of it you will need. But a lot of it…it’s time has come. You need to create space. You need to reduce clutter. Lucky for you, Uncle Geoff is here to help.
I’m talking, of course, about all of your superfluous comics, manga and graphic novels. You know, the stuff that’s piling up. Lonely. Begging to be read, absorbed, loved. LOVED, GODDAMNIT.
This year (and every year, really, so if you already do something like this you’re awesome, and if you’re not already awesome, hopefully you can become awesome now), why not kill two pterodactyls with one boulder, take a step back from your march towards HOARDERS and do something terrific in the process?
I got an email the other day from reader Drew Ackerman, and unlike the rest of us, he’s doing something great with his life. He runs the library at Camp Sweeney, an offshoot of the State of California’s juvenile detention program run by the Alameda County probation department. It hosts young men ages 15-18 for time periods that vary, but Drew estimates that the average kid is there for 9-12 months. The program they’re in – and this is something that’s become really important to me over the last few years – is focused not merely on incarceration, but on “restorative justice”, where the detainees are taught to address the root issues of their behavior and are shown that they have a choice in the direction of their lives. It’s an almost totally forgotten aspect of our current prison culture: rehabilitation. And here it’s even more important, because the program can potentially help to curb some of the problems that land our nation’s youth in a cycle of crime before it fully develops.
And so here’s the cool twist: Drew’s a bit of a genre nut, and his focus with the library has been on comics/manga/graphic novels. He’s big on these kids flexing their imaginations, and his future plans include some programming at the library: a reading group, job/career training and, close to our own hearts, a filmmaking club.
The library just opened in October, and frankly, they just don’t currently have nearly as much material as they’d like. And this is where you foist yourself onto the scene: send them what you’ve got. Send comics, send manga, send graphic novels. Send books about filmmaking and writing. Send movies. Send any materials you think could help open a young man’s mind to the imagination-driven world we’re all living in. Think about all the people that introduced you to a piece of media or entertainment that blew your mind, something that you kept close to you every day since. You now have an expanded opportunity to pay that forward a hundred times over.
These aren’t hardened criminals, grizzled baddies who’ve cashed in their chips for a life of murder and mayhem. These are kids who have made mistakes and, more often than not, simply need something to expand their horizons and give them something to work towards. How many of us used books, comics and films to not only shape our careers, but our lives in general? How tremendous would it be to put even one person on that path as well?
So donate your shit. Just do it. It’s win-win. And for Christ’s sake, it’s Xmas! It’s like the perfect storm, but with less Marky Mark and George Clooney. Or…depending on what you donate, JUST THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF MARKY AND CLOONEY.
If you’d like to contact Drew, his email is firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like to donate something – and PLEASE do, I beg of thee – box it all up and ship it to their address at:
Alameda County Library
RE Andrew/Camp Sweeney
2450 Stevenson Blvd
Fremont CA 94538
Think about it: we have a chance to Andy Dufresne this shit. A VERY MERRY SHAWSHANK XMAS.
Posted below is a little more info on the project and a few current photos of the library; it’s what Drew sends out to comic book shops and the like. A massive and perpetual Thank You in advance to those of you who are able to help out. And a Merry Xmas indeed, you cheery, do-gooding sonsabitches.
“Camp Sweeney is currently seeking donations of graphic novels, comic books and manga for its new library. We will accept new or used items in decent condition. We are able to pick up donations and can provide a gift receipt for tax purposes. Please email or call me at 510-715-9788 if you are able to donate any items.
What is Camp Sweeney?
Camp Wilmont Sweeney is a local, unlocked, 24-hour residential program currently staffed for 80 minors ranging in age from 15 through 18 who are ordered by the Juvenile Court to be committed to the Camp. The overall goal is to return each minor to his community as a positive and productive citizen. The books, programming and technological resources of the Library will be an integral part of that goal. There will be an extensive collection of books for the youth to check out including genres like popular fiction, biographies and self-help. The new library will feature access to the library’s state of the art online resources. Job search tools, homework help and multiple research databases will be just a few clicks away. Judge Sweeney, a resident of Berkeley who became that city’s first African American to be elected to the City Council . In 1979, then-Governor Jerry Brown appointed Judge Sweeney to the Superior Court. Judge Sweeney was a longtime advocate of finding alternatives to detention centers for juveniles, such as rehabilitation and counseling. Alameda County’s minimum-security residential facility for juveniles convicted of misdemeanors or nonviolent felonies is known as ‘Camp Sweeney,’ in his honor.”