Editor's note: Sam Allen is a Delta College student and a writer in the College's Office of Marketing and Communications.
Sam Hatch didn’t become a fund raiser because of a flash of inspiration. Neither was it virtuous zeal. Instead, Hatch, a semi-retired English professor at Delta College, began raising money and books for literacy because of his students.
Around 2009, Hatch became an advisor to a campus club, Pipeline. The club members wanted to undertake a community service project, and Hatch – reader and professor that he is – suggested that they raise money for a local elementary school. “I thought I was just going to swing in my hammock and watch them do the project,” Hatch said.
Instead, his students galvanized him to action.
With the help of Bob Morrow, a pioneer in the national literacy program Head Start, Hatch and the club decided to raise money and collect books to help increase literacy in Stockton.
Fourteen years later, Hatch’s efforts have resulted in $57,000 being donated by Delta community members to 10 schools across Stockton, mostly in underprivileged neighborhoods. A total of 24,070 books have been donated by Delta faculty, staff, and students.
The need is clear: Among students at Hazelton School, which was adopted last year, 91.6% qualify for free or reduced school lunches. This number indicates that far fewer students have families who can easily purchase books to be used at home. Hazelton has received over 1,000 books since August 2022.
Hatch even tailors his requests to the needs of students. Hazelton Elementary, for example, has a population of 30% English language learner students. In a recent campus email, he requested bilingual book donations for the Hazelton library.
Elizabeth Maloney, President of the San Joaquin Delta College Teachers Association, says this: “Teachers know the importance of reading, especially in the development of those skills in elementary grades. School libraries help students broaden their imagination and creativity and provide a foundation of information related to a variety of careers, cultures and subjects. These spaces need to be inviting to students. SJDCTA is delighted to help our local students access these resources.”
Delta College English professor Paula Sheil also helped Hatch by hosting his fundraisers under Tuleburg Press, the nonprofit publishing house she founded in 2013. Now Hatch’s book and fund drive is called Tuleburg Press Children’s Book and Fund Drive.
Although he is partially retired, Hatch still sends out fundraising emails to the Delta community and writes grants for books and learning equipment for the schools that the book and fund drive has chosen.
Nearly every week August through May, Delta community members who have a Delta staff or faculty email address get an email asking for donations – either books or money – from Hatch. Hatch’s wit and warmth shine through these emails. “I don't want you to send me the mortgage check, the baby's milk money, or the money you've been saving to buy Betsy Sue a new pair of sparkly patent leather ballerina slippers. Just give what you're comfortable giving — what you want to give.”
And give they have.
“Hatch is diligent, to the number,” says one Delta staff donor who would like to remain anonymous. “It’s fascinating that he’s so detailed and so consistent. I’m inspired by education in general and books are part of education. Knowing. Learning more. I’m obsessed with his emails – you can tell he’s passionate about the schools he’s supporting.”
On Mondays and Wednesdays, Hatch even “weeds” and repairs books in that library, sitting on a small, child-sized chair. Although he knows other Stockton community organizations are working diligently to support children’s literacy, he hopes some of the “gentle upward curve” in literacy achievement at Hazelton and some of the other schools TPCBFD has adopted can be attributed to his partnership with his Delta College donors. Hatch’s fundraisers, it seems, give Delta donors something to be proud of and to root for.
In December 2020, Hatch sent out an alphabetical list of donors who have contributed to the book drive through the years with time, money, or book donations. There were 589 donors on that list, most of them from Delta College.
Even Delta’s Maintenance and Operations division, the department that houses unused school equipment, has donated Bunsen burners, microscopes, and lots of bookcases and chairs to Hatch’s cause over the years.
In a way, Hatch is emblematic of Delta – genuinely inspired by education and motivated to act on it.
So, with the help of a small army of Delta community members, Stockton schools are getting access to the fundamentals of literacy.
One book at a time.