NJM Insurance Group (NJM) collected over two thousand books during a two-month companywide campaign. The donation benefits a new book bank initiative being developed by Mercer Street Friends, a Trenton-based nonprofit dedicated to nourishing minds and bodies, and empowering families and communities throughout Mercer County.

Pictured from left to right includes: Kira Williams, Mercer Street Friends Communications Coordinator; Bernie Flynn, Mercer Street Friends CEO; Larry Abram, BookSmiles Founder/Executive Director; Pat Hartpence, NJM Corporate Giving Officer; Courtney Matlock, Mercer Street Friends, Chief Development & Marketing Officer; and Jeff Richardson, NJM Community Outreach & Events Coordinator.

The campaign was created in partnership with BookSmiles, a nonprofit committed to improving literacy and spreading the joy of reading to children throughout New Jersey and Philadelphia. The goal of the collaboration is to create a wealth of literature for children to read, to increase literacy, and improve achievement in Mercer County. NJM volunteers joined BookSmiles to help sort through the collected books, organize them according to age group, and distribute them to Mercer Street Friends.

“In many underserved communities, children lack access to quality books. This collection will help to foster and sustain a love of reading among children,” said Mitch Livingston, NJM president, and CEO. “Supporting BookSmiles and Mercer Street Friends, NJM employees and retirees help address educational inequities in our communities and bolster the community-focused work of Mercer Street Friends.”

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, between 2020 and 2022, young learners in the United States experienced the largest decrease in reading proficiency since 1990. The greatest decrease was among lower-performing students.

Bernie Flynn, Mercer Street Friends CEO

“Our mission at Mercer Street Friends is to nourish the body and the mind. We want the Mercer County community to thrive and that includes our youngest children.  Currently, there is a shortage of quality books suitable for infants through sixth grade,” said Mercer Street Friends CEO Bernie Flynn. “We are excited to join with BookSmiles, and we express our sincere gratitude to NJM for taking on the role of the corporate sponsor in this collaboration.”

Founded in 2017, BookSmiles gives away approximately 30,000 books each month. The NJM book collection helped BookSmiles reach its one-million milestone in the number of books collected.

“As an educator, I appreciate how this initiative will help bridge the gap in literacy skills for children throughout the Mercer County area one book at a time,” said Larry Abrams, BookSmiles founder, and executive director. “BookSmiles is dedicated to irrigating the book deserts and helping kids gain access to reading materials. We are thrilled to join Mercer Street Friends and NJM to help ensure books get into the hands and homes of students.”