Michaelin Watts, at left, who brought Bring Me A Book to Franklin County more than a decade ago, stands with Cherie Rowland, the current president of Bring Me a Book Franklin. [ David Adlerstein | The Times ]
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Bring Me A Book benefit helps expand its reach

Bring Me A Book Franklin’s Love of Literacy Benefit earlier this month attracted attendees from near and far, with close to 200 guests coming from Tallahassee, California and even Canada to raise money for home libraries for the children of Franklin and Gulf counties. 

Fort Coombs Armory in Apalachicola provided a festive setting, accented with giant gold mirrored balloons and red and pink balloon bouquets.

The event opened with a cocktail hour featuring acoustic music by the Von Wamps, followed by a catered dinner, dancing with the Bo Spring Band, a silent auction and several raffles. During dinner, guests enjoyed a short program which highlighted the many ways BMABF supports early childhood literacy in the community. 

The program concluded by honoring Bunnie Ison, a long-time resident of Franklin County, as BMABF’s Volunteer of the Year. Ison has been instrumental in organizing several of BMABF’s initiatives and most recently, served as secretary of the organization and headed up the project to provide books to the Backpack Buddies at Franklin County School. 

She and her husband, David, have moved from St. George island, where they lived for the past 11 years, to Tennessee to be closer to their children and grandchildren as she undergoes medical treatment, and so the couple’s remarks of appreciation were delivered by Andrea Comstock.

“Throughout her career as teacher and diagnostician, she always would comment to me about child after child she had encountered that needed educational attention,” David wrote. “Bunnie has always had a plan to raise the bar, so to speak.”

He wrote of how among her many volunteer pursuits, his wife would read to elementary students every Thursday in Apalachicola, “but that was not good enough. She would plan a way to catch their attention, a plan to excite their zest for learning. She made a blue bunny puppet and used it to speak to their hearts as well as their minds. When a child spotted her in a store, they would exclaim ‘There is Miss Blue Bunny!’”

“I remember sitting on one of the decks at our house in Knoxville when she asked “Do you have any regrets in life?” David recalled. “Shocked at the question, I replied ‘Of course, many’ to which she retorted, ‘I have none. Good or bad, I have learned from them all.’”

“Your honoring Bunnie as volunteer of the year is deeply touching and so very timely,” he wrote in closing. “On her behalf, I am honored to accept your award of her recognition. Thank you David and Michelin Watts and board members for acknowledging and honoring her with this beautiful award.”

BMABF gives books away throughout the year at community events, during well check visits at doctors’ offices and health clinics in Gulf and Franklin counties and at spring Book Bonanzas at elementary schools, where students choose four books to take home to help prevent summer slide.  

Thanks to the funds raised at the Love of Literacy Winter Benefit, in 2024 BMABF will be able to sponsor Book Bonanzas at Port St. Joe Elementary, Wewahitchka Elementary, Franklin County School, and the Apalachicola Bay Charter School. The expansion to Gulf County represents a significant increase in the number of local children touched by BMABF’s work.

“The success of the Love of Literacy WInter Benefit would not have been possible without our key sponsors: Duke Energy, Caroline and Charley Kienzle, Michaelin and Dave Watts, and Paula Kendrick and Chip Darnell,” said Cherie Rowland, president of Bring Me a Book Franklin. “We are grateful that so many people from the community came together to celebrate BMABF’s 15 years of work in the community, and to help us further enhance and expand our literacy programs. It was a grand event, and I believe we achieved our goal of raising awareness of our mission to ignite the passion to read in young children.” 

Next year’s Love of Literacy Benefit is slated for Feb. 1, 2025.

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Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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