SONOMA COUNTY (KPIX 5) -- It's a gift you can carry away, it's free, and it comes to you. It's the inspiration of this week's Jefferson Award winner, Glen Weaver.
Glen Weaver calls it the best job ever: it's like giving people a shopping spree every day.
"You've won! You don't have to spend any money. Anything you see on the shelves is yours for the taking," Weaver exclaimed, gesturing to the books lining the walls of his bookmobile.
"The bookmobile is open for business. Come on in!"
Readers can take three books for free, and they don't even have to bring them back.
How Weaver started the Free Bookmobile of Sonoma County in 2009 reads like an adventure. He'd been hired as a manager at the COTS Mary Isaak homeless center in Petaluma. But he says his colleagues' commitment to the homeless inspired him to do more.
"A friend of mine told me a story about a bookmobile that was turned into a camping vehicle. And I only heard the word, 'bookmobile.' I knew instantly what I wanted to do," he remembered.
With his young sons in tow, Weaver drove a donated trailer on weekends, offering donated books to homeless families. COTS CEO Mike Johnson watched him in action.
"He's brought the gift of literature to thousands and thousands of children," Johnson explained.
Then Weaver opened a new chapter in his life when he began operating the Free Bookmobile full time three years ago. Today, he drives a big green truck carrying 2500 books. It's a purpose-built bookmobile with skylights and backup electricity. It was originally from a Kentucky library that could no longer afford a driver, so it ended up on Craig's List. Weaver got it for $6500. It was originally $70,000. In it, he visits 200 different places a year promoting literacy among Sonoma County senior citizens, children, and the homeless.
"It's just nice that it's brought to us and brought to the children," explained reader Terin Smith.
"It means a lot; I do a lot of reading," added reader David Welsh.
And reader Fred Rezzonico said, "It's a really great service, it keeps people educated."
In five years, Weaver's Free Bookmobile has shared 105,000 books with more than 40,000 readers. It recently became part of the Sonoma County Public Library Foundation.
"I can't really think of any other role in which I have people profusely thanking me and so excited to even know about this concept," Weaver said.
So, for giving the gift of reading in Sonoma County, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Glen Weaver.
The Free Bookmobile is always looking for recent, high-quality kids' books. To donate, click this link, then "Donate Books" on the left to find the drop-off locations: http://freebookmobile.org/
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