By Stacey Dresner
Stephen Freyman, 15, loves to read. The teen from Longmeadow especially loves spy novels.
"I read all the time. I read really late last night and fell asleep reading," he said.
Stephen, a freshman at Longmeadow High School, now shares this love of books with others through the organization "Link to Libraries," a non-profit organization founded by Susan Jaye-Kaplan in 2008.
Links to Libraries collects new and gently used books for schools and other non-profit organizations. When she was starting the organization, Kaplan, a running buddy of Stephen's mother Ellen Freyman, asked whether Stephen, who she knew was computer savvy, could help her to create a website.
Stephen did create the website and continues to maintain the website today. "But it became a lot more than that," Stephen explained.
He became a member of Link to Libraries' advisory board, attending meetings during the organization's planning stages. Once a month he goes to the Hadley warehouse where all of the Link to Libraries books are stored and helps label the books and load them up for delivery.
Stephen is one of several local youths who are involved in Link to Libraries.
Kieran Summers, a seventh grader in Longmeadow works on the Link to Libraries website with Stephen, handling graphic design.
"My participating in Link to Libraries helps children to have the reading opportunities that I had growing up," Kieran said. "I really love reading, and seeing the little kids waiting for their books is really amazing. Knowing that they don't have this chance at home is sad, but at least we can help in their school or club."
Daniel Fein of Longmeadow got involved with Link to Libraries in January 2009 when he was looking for a meaningful mitzvah project for his May 2009 Bar Mitzvah.
"My mom saw several newspaper articles about Link to Libraries...and what they do for kids locally by bringing them new books to read," Daniel explained. "I have always loved to read, since I was a little kid, and in fact my Bar Mitzvah 'theme' revolved around books. Each table had a book centerpiece. We gave out leather bookmarks to all adult guests and I gave book lights to the kids."
Daniel's Bar Mitzvah guests brought books from a Link to Libraries list which were donated to the organization. He also arranged for a donation of books from the Scholastic Company that Daniel gave to Link to Libraries. As an advisory board student intern, Daniel goes to the monthly meetings where they put Link to Libraries book stickers inside each book that is to be donated.
Talya Wintman learned about Link to Libraries when she interviewed Kaplan for a Leadership Forum at her school.
"I loved meeting Sue and was inspired by her energy and outgoing personality and all her generous contributions to our community," Talya said. "After I found out about Link to Libraries from Sue, I was eager to take part."
With other students at her school, Talya organized a book drive on Martin Luther King Day that collected more than 600 books.
Now Wintman, as well as her younger sister, Shoshi, volunteer for the organization monthly.
"Link to Libraries feels honored and most fortunate to have young people such as Kieran, Stephen, Dan and Talya on our advisory committee and working alongside the adult board members," said Susan Jaye-Kaplan. "Their energy, motivation, input and hard work is a testament to what the youth of the future will be. Their commitment to community service is a testament to the values instilled by their parents and teachers. We at Link to Libraries always treat our teens with great respect and dignity. The work they do for our organization cannot be expressed in enough words. We truly are honored by their presence."