HOPKINS, Minn. -- Maria Keller's work to bring one million books to needy kids has earned her an Eleven Who Care award.
"I want to give them the choice to be able to read," said Maria Keller, the founder of the charity Read Indeed.
Maria has always been an avid reader.
"I guess it takes me away into the book," Maria explained. "And I feel like I'm there."
She was surprised when her mom said some kids don't have even one book.
"I thought that was kind of unfair," Maria said. "I guess I just said, 'I want to collect a million books for kids in need.'"
"We were shocked," said Maria's mom, Maura Keller. "But we wanted to help in any way that we could."
So Maria and her family turned the "million book idea" into an official 501c3 non-profit called Read Indeed.
As word spread, it didn't take long for the books to stack up. Friends and family made donations. Local book drives added more books. The collection that started at the dining room table quickly spilled into the family's garage.
"I remember the garage being stacked with books and thinking, 'a million books coming through is going to be interesting,'" said Katie Brick, a member of Read Indeed's board of directors.
Eventually the Read Indeed collection outgrew the garage too.
"Now we have a warehouse in Hopkins where we sort the books and box them and send them off," Maria said.
Books are sorted and boxed by kid and adult volunteers and then shipped to places in the Twin Cities and around the world.
As of January more than 579,000 books had come through the organization.
"The mission is to get books into children's hands, so that they can have books in their homes," added Katie Brick.
Maria thinks the gift will spark an interest in stories that will last a lifetime.
"I think they'll be taken away with a book too. They will learn to love to read like I have," she said.
Visit the Read Indeed website for information about making donations or volunteering time.
(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)