Charity transforms grief into giving
By KATHERINE LAZARUS
PITTSFORD — After Sara Gallipo passed away in 2015, her daughters Kayla Desabarais and Jenelle Daly as well as close family friend Meghan Fox, commemorated her legacy by starting Sara’s Stories — a program that aims to give books to children and foster literacy at an early age.
Remembering her mother, Desabarais recalls, “she loved to read, was a big part of the library and Lothrop, and ran a daycare.”
In her mother’s footsteps, Desabarais teaches second grade at Lothrop Elementary School and enjoys the effect of giving out books because “as teachers, we want our kids to be more prepared, too.”
Fox, a reading and math interventionist at Barstow Memorial School, finds “every book provides early exposure to colors, numbers, and rhyming that engages kids. There are lessons and other ideas, and explanations of different feelings.”
Sara’s Stories is helping children in Pittsford, Proctor, Chittenden and Clarendon. As they look to develop interest in the current towns they help, the group also wants to spread a love of literacy as far as possible. Last year, they delivered 1,466 books to children age 0 to 5, building easy-access, at-home libraries in the community.
When they started in 2016, the three Pittsford women fundraised with a coin drop outside Lothrop School for three years and a chili cookoff, now one of their annual events. Fox’s husband crafts wooden trophies to accompany the prize money at the cookoff, which are the “real prize,” Fox said, that contestants really treasure.
The group prints their catchphrase “read to me” on shirts and canvas bags and sells them to fundraise along with other provocative printed phrases like “dinosaurs didn’t read and now they’re extinct. Coincidence?”
They sign locals up and receive sponsorship from people and businesses in town at $30 to sponsor a kid for a whole year. “We are appreciative of the community—they are so supportive and willing to help out,” Fox said.
They bought their first books for the 3 and 4 year-olds at Caverly Preschool, then gave more away at town-wide events they knew young families would attend, like Santa’s visit, tailoring the genre of books they bring to the occasion. “Our biggest goal is getting as many kids reading and enjoying reading with their families as possible,” said Desabarais.
The three women, whose children have received books from their organization, also like to circulate books about race and ethnicity. “It’s nice to broaden libraries in a community that doesn’t really have diversity,” said Fox. She recalls seeing the impact of their work after giving a book to a 2-year-old at Pittsford Days whose dad said it was his first book.
In 2019, the organization joined Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library that delivers books to those in need for $2.10/mo. This supplements their in-person giveaway at events and worked out well during the pandemic, because Sara’s Stories was still able to meet their mission even though they could not be there in person.
The Imagination Library “gives parents guidelines and connection-questions with each book for comprehension,” explained Fox.
Sara’s stories spread from Pittsford to Proctor, where Sara taught, with support from Miss U.S. America Queen Brookelyn Kimball (also of Proctor) who connected them with the Mortimer fund that has now been committed to buying books for children in Proctor since February.
Sara’s Stories is a subsidiary of Pittsford’s Maclure Library, for now, though they are looking forward to establishing their non-profit status this year.
Desabarais, Daly, and Fox will be giving away books at the Pittsford Recreation Center Open House this Saturday June 19, Pittsford Days Sept. 4, and at Pittsford Village Farm when they can. Also, sometime this summer, Sara’s Stories will sponsor a book trail for “Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt” by Kate Messner and Christopher Neal.