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Jeffersontown Resident Launches Book Rescue of Louisville

Photography Provided

Ever since he was a little boy, Chris Wise has been a book lover. Even before he could read, he cherished sitting on his parents’ laps as they read him bedtime stories.

“My parents instilled in me from a young age the importance of books and reading,” Wise says. “Books are essential, especially in children, not only to gain knowledge but also to explore new worlds through the pages of a book and your imagination.”

Wise, who works 50 hours a week at a full-time job, has engaged in a hobby of tracking down rare books and selling them on Amazon.com. A few months ago, however, Wise began exploring the idea of providing books to individuals at no cost.

He started thinking about how many used books in the average household are never picked up after being read. Wise wanted to find a way to get those books into the hands of people who would use them. After all, as Wise says, “Books are meant to be read. They aren’t beneficial to anyone if they aren’t given another opportunity to be read again by someone else.”

His mindset shifted, and suddenly he changed his focus from sniffing out rare books to collecting books of all genres – mystery, romance, fiction, nonfiction – and sharing them with others in the community.

“I wanted to take books to people who could benefit from them,” says Wise, who launched Book Rescue of Louisville last June.

Book Rescue of Louisville currently offers a free book removal service for individuals, businesses, schools, churches, libraries, and anyone else who has books they no longer want or need. Wise picks up books from any location in the Louisville area and surrounding counties at no charge. According to Wise, no other organization in the area offers such a service. All books are accepted, regardless of genre or condition.

For the most part it’s a one-man operation, though Wise has recruited his wife, kids and father to assist with pick-ups and deliveries. In addition, his father Tom graciously loaned Wise his van. Since Wise is busy on weekdays with his full-time job, he usually does book pick-ups and deliveries on Sundays.

“We do not add any books to landfills, although a small percentage may be recycled depending on their condition,” says Wise, who notes that around five to ten percent of the books he collects are sold to recoup some of his overhead costs. The remaining books are donated to those in need around Louisville and surrounding counties.

“I’m not making a living off this by any means, but that’s OK because that was never the point,” Wise says. “Basically, I want to take books anywhere they will be used.”

Wise says it’s rather easy finding books during yard sale season. He simply contacts people who are having sales, explains his mission, and picks up any books left over after sales.

“The response has been really good,” says Wise, noting that he once came across a former teacher who gave him ten boxes of children’s books. He donated the books to a large nonprofit in Louisville called the Home of the Innocents, whose mission is to enrich the lives of children and families with hope, health and happiness.

“They were so appreciative to get the books,” Wise says. “That’s my favorite donation so far.”

Sometimes Wise collects a handful of books. Other times it’s a box or two. 

“Right now the back of my van is full of books – so is my garage,” Wise says. “They’re spilling into the house.”

As quickly as he collects them, Wise works to find places to give books away. He’s already distributed hundreds of books to several nonprofit organizations as well as some Little Free libraries. Going forward, he wants to focus mainly on providing free, used books to inner city schools, daycare centers, hospitals, assisted-living facilities, nursing homes, churches, homeless shelters, Little Free libraries, and any other organization that would benefit from having them. He also donates books to a friend who runs a homeless outreach program in Louisville.

Since he started Book Rescue of Louisville, Wise estimates that he’s collected and distributed thousands of books, and he looks forward to delivering thousands more. So far the response, both from donors and recipients, has been extremely positive.

“There have been several pick-ups where people tell me how glad they are that their books are going to a good home,” Wise says.

Since the organization is still in its infancy, Wise is not yet set up as a nonprofit organization, so book donations are not tax deductible. In the future, however, he plans to take the legal steps necessary to become a nonprofit. He would also like to find a way to partner with thrift stores, used bookstores, Goodwill, and possibly the local library system – any entity with an abundance of books. His ultimate goal is to be known as the book guy.

“I want people to think, ‘I’ve got books – I’m going to call Chris!’” says Wise, whose motto is, “Used Books, New Life.”

Not surprisingly, one of Wise’s favorite pastimes is reading.

“I have a nightstand with ten books on it – mostly nonfiction,” Wise says. “Lots of biographies. I like to read a chapter or two every day.”

Right now, Wise’s main goal is to spread the word and let the community know that Book Rescue of Louisville exists.

“It may sound clichéd, but my purpose is to give back to others – to do something positive for the community,” Wise says. “If I can somehow help get a book into the hands of someone, and that in turn helps someone who is maybe going through a hard time or is in need of a boost in their mood or their life – well, that makes this job worthwhile.”

As his organization grows and gains momentum, Wise hopes to provide donations to prisoners in jail, as well as additional homeless organizations.

“I’d like these folks to read books and get inspired to better themselves,” Wise says. “Knowing that I could aid in some small part of that really propels my purpose. Perhaps one day it will spread across the whole state. Book Rescue of Kentucky? Hey, you never know.”

Organizations interested in donating to Book Rescue of Louisville can call 502-780-6484 or email Chris Wise at chris@bookrescuelou.com. Visit www.bookrescuelou.com for more info.

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