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Nearly 75 Educators Offer Input on Needed Resources at Regional Town Halls

First Book and Foundation for Appalachian Ohio Host Town Halls to Shape Future Resources and Initiatives

Nelsonville, OH – Educators and others working with children across Appalachian Ohio recently gathered for two town hall events in Pomeroy and Cambridge, hosted by the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO) and its partner – the nonprofit, social enterprise First Book. The town halls provided an opportunity for local educators and service providers to offer their input on educational resources needed in their work with children, which will help shape the work of the two nonprofits.

Julye Williams (left) and Laralyn Sasaki Dearing (right), who coordinated and facilitated the two town hall events with First Book, stand with the Pomeroy event’s panelists. Pictured from left to right between them, panelists included Emily Sanders with the Meigs District Public Library, Darla Kennedy, teacher with the Meigs Local School District, Taylor Bowling, teacher with the Athens City School District, and Sherry Shamblin, with Hopewell Health Centers. Photo by Mark Yannitell.

“We so appreciate all the educators who took time out of their busy schedules to join us in shaping future educational resources for Appalachian Ohio,” said Bonnie Beste, partner development manager at First Book. “We really learned so much – from successes in educators’ work that can be leveraged to develop best practices for supporting children and families, to the key challenges facing educators in their communities, especially barriers to educating and supporting children.”

Through the town halls, First Book and FAO intend to shape future opportunities to learn from educators and ultimately develop educational resources tailored to the particular needs of Appalachian Ohio’s educators and communities. This could include the development of new children’s books, educational tool kits, and other resources for teachers and all those working with children. FAO also shared that what the nonprofits learn from the town halls will inform future initiatives through its education programming.

“Our partnership with First Book has sought to connect teachers and all those working with children with the books, basic needs items, and educational resources that we know make such a big difference in inspiring learning,” said Megan Wanczyk, vice president of communications and programs at FAO. “We are so grateful to all of the educators and service providers who joined us. What they shared and what we learned will continue to shape the next steps in our work to support educators and the children they serve.”

Julye Williams (center) and Laralyn Sasaki Dearing (center-right), who coordinated and facilitated the two town hall events with First Book, stand with the Cambridge event’s panelists, Leah Vensil (left), with Muskingum Valley Health, and Laurie Goggin (center-left) and Amanda Swanson (right), both teachers with Cambridge City Schools. Photo by Mark Yannitell.

To access free and low-cost books and other resources through the partnership between FAO and First Book, educators working with children from low-income communities may register with both organizations at By completing this quick registration with First Book and FAO, educators will also stay up to date with any future opportunities available through First Book and FAO, including funding for purchases from the First Book Marketplace and Book Bank and information on resources developed as a result of the town halls and ongoing focus groups.

To learn how you can support FAO’s partnership with First Book and future initiatives shaped in response to educator feedback, visit or contact FAO at 740.753.1111. Gifts to FAO’s I’m a Child of Appalachia Fund, which supports FAO’s partnership with First Book as well as other bright spot initiatives, are currently eligible for a dollar-for-dollar match opportunity.

About First Book
First Book believes education offers children in need the best path out of poverty. Through a sustainable, market-driven model, First Book breaks down barriers to quality education by making new, high-quality books and educational resources, including sports equipment, winter coats, snacks, and more, affordable to its member network of more than 425,000 registered educators who exclusively serve kids in need. Since 1992, First Book has distributed more than 185 million books and educational resources, worth more than $1.5 billion, across the U.S. and Canada.

First Book also expands the breadth and depth of the education field through a family of social enterprises, including First Book Research & Insights, its proprietary research initiative, and the First Book Accelerator, which brings best-in-class research to the classroom via relevant, usable educator resources. First Book Impact Funds target support to areas of particular need, such as rural communities or increasing diversity in children’s books.

Eligible educators, librarians, providers, and others serving children in need can sign up at For more information, please visit or follow the latest news on Facebook and Twitter.

About the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio
The Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO) is a regional community foundation serving the 32 counties of Appalachian Ohio. A 501(c)(3) public charity, the Foundation creates opportunities for Appalachian Ohio’s citizens and communities by inspiring and supporting philanthropy. For more information about FAO, visit