Saratoga County

‘Books for Troops’ effort a success, but now postage is needed

People were so generous when Ellen Keegan asked for book donations for U.S. troops serving overseas

People were so generous when Ellen Keegan asked for book donations for U.S. troops serving overseas that now she has a problem: not enough postage to mail them all.

Keegan, who started Books for Troops in April 2010, has sent 14,000 books so far to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. She asks for paperbacks because they’re lighter, and ships mainly best-selling fiction, as well as some historical nonfiction.

“All our books are donated, and we’ve gotten a huge amount of donations,” Keegan said. “We practically have a room full of books.”

Now she hopes people will donate $12.50 to adopt a box of books to send overseas.

“It’s really a bargain to send at that price,” she said.

The boxes are mailed to California, where transport planes also carrying other supplies for the troops make the rest of the trip without the local organization needing to pay.

How to contribute

People who want to adopt a box of books to send to the troops can send a $12.50 check to Books for Troops, 152 Oak Brook Commons, Clifton Park, NY 12065-2677. That pays the postage for one box of about 40 books.Visit for more information.

Each box holds about 40 books.

The organization has enough books to send out about 200 boxes, but doesn’t have the money to cover it.

Twelve-year-old Andrew Kiner and his mother, Martha, volunteer most Saturdays, boxing up the books, and also visit two area Red Robin restaurants to pick up books that people drop off for the program.

Drop boxes are set up at the Red Robin Clifton Park and in Latham, and at Clifton Park and Halfmoon town halls, West Crescent Fire Co., Business Products Inc. across from the Clifton Park Post Office and Getaway Restaurant across from JC Penney in Clifton Park Center. The Red Robin boxes fill up the fastest because they’re open more hours.

“My son and I were looking to volunteer together, and it’s kind of hard for that age group,” Martha Kiner said. They examine the books to make sure they’re in good enough shape to send, and then pack them in boxes.

Giving books is something the book-loving family believes in.

“We go to the library every week, sometimes a couple times a week,” she said.

Keegan said another mother and son also help out, and a Shenendehowa student mails the packages himself.

Hoping for feedback

Keegan puts a small card in each book with her address, asking troops who read the books to write to her if the reading material has made a difference in their lives.

She hasn’t heard anything yet, but has been told by other veterans that books helped them get through their deployments in war zones, including a World War II veteran who wrote to her.

“He doesn’t think he would have survived if it weren’t for the books that took away the boredom and the loneliness,” she said. “I hear from a tremendous amount of vets who say the same thing.”

Books helped Keegan retain her own sanity during a year-long, unpredictable illness.

After esophagus surgery, she had severe nausea anytime she so much as moved her head. The flicker of a TV or computer screen made her sick too.

“I didn’t want company because I just felt so terrible,” she said.

As her body withered, reading was her only escape.

“I truly believe that books have a healing quality to them,” she said. “When I was reading the books, I wasn’t lonely and I wasn’t bored and I wasn’t scared.”

When she got better, Keegan thought of the soldiers serving in war zones who might also need to escape from the fear and horror of their daily lives.

“The power of that and the ability to be able to give that to somebody, it just keeps me going.”

So she joined Operation Adopt a Soldier and was dismayed that the Wilton-based organization doesn’t send books because there’s not enough room. So she started her own group, which is now a 501(c)3 not-for-profit.

Keegan started Books for Troops in her garage, but because it was unheated and without light, by October it was difficult to sort and pack the books there. Now she uses space the town of Halfmoon donated in its former Town Hall.

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