MARIETTA, Ga. — Books for Africa hosted a grand opening celebration of its new warehouse opening on Saturday attended by over 200 people. The event comes on the heels of an historic accomplishment earlier this year when it completed its 50 millionth book shipment last year.
The St. Paul, Minnesota based non-profit moved its main warehouse to the Atlanta metro area in 2009. Millions of donated books from all over the country are sorted, packed and shipped each year from the warehouse to the Port of Savanah, where they are sent by cargo ship to students throughout Africa.
“Our new warehouse will dramatically improve our efficiency and allow us to automate our operation. It will also be a more effective work area for our thousands of volunteers,” said Patrick Plonski, Books for Africa’s executive director.
At Saturday’s grand opening, the African Union Ambassador to the United States, Her Excellency Hilda Suka-Mafudze, praised the organizations efforts in her keynote address, calling BFA an “eloquent example of an effective instrument of soft public diplomacy that contributes in enhancing the longstanding historic and cultural ties between our peoples and nations.”
The Ambassador also spoke to the importance of increasing literacy across the continent, proliferating content in native African languages, and the emerging importance of art and culture to the growth of Africa.
“The African Union [recognizes] the instrumental role that arts, culture and heritage
can play as catalysts for the sustainable socio-economic development and integration of the continent…Aspiration 5 of Agenda 2063 reaffirms Africa’s ‘strong cultural identity, common heritage, values and ethics’ as critical factors for Africa’s re-emergence on the global stage,’” Suka-Mafudze stated.
The Ambassador spoke of the potential for collaboration between Books for Africa and the African Union in addressing the literacy needs of the continent with ideas like the custom printing of books in local African languages which the organization has already embarked on.
Founder, Tom Warth also spoke at the event, thanking the over 15,000 volunteers for their vital role in bringing the space to full operation and sustaining the mission of the organization. Warth also addressed the need for more content in native African languages and emphasized that Books for Africa’s mission to end the book famine in Africa is still yet to be accomplished.
Board president Joanna Sussman said Books for Africa had the second-most volunteers of any non-profit in the Atlanta metro area before the pandemic.
Fun and free-spirited energy permeated the spacious warehouse through the live musical set from the Books for Africa Warehouse Band. Performing covers of Amy Winehouse, The Eurythmics, and countless other classics — and even some original songs like the “Books for Africa Band.”