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Innovation and impact spur DIBS for kids

Written by Katie Fourney    on February 13, 2020    in
The Lifting Up Do-Gooders column, written by SHARE Omaha executive director Marjorie Maas, runs bi-monthly in metroMAGAZINE. See the original publication of this article here on page 34. 

Who is a Do-Gooder?  Either you are one, or you know a few. SHARE Omaha defines do-gooders as those who see a need and do good for others or the community; those who raise their hands to help when a crisis or challenge arises around them; those who regularly prioritize this good work, even in the light of personal sacrifice.

SHARE Omaha tells stories of volunteers, donors and general do-gooders regularly on our blog, and with this column we seek to act as a megaphone for those making our community and metro area better. These do-gooders could be individuals, businesses, families or nonprofit organizations.

DIBS for Kids: A team of Do-Gooders
David Orrick saw a need and leveraged his experience and passion to address it. David founded the tech-assisted book program DIBS for Kids to help get reading material home with young students every day. DIBS stands for “Delivering Infinite Book Shelves” – and they do deliver on that promise. They started in 2012 with 25 families. Today, they are serving nearly 3,000 students in Omaha Public Schools.

Why Now? Why Omaha?
The need for more books in homes became apparent to David when he taught first grade in New Orleans.

“[The need] came about in my classroom. No students in class had age-appropriate books in their home. Nationally, 61% of students growing up in poverty don’t have a single one,” David relayed to me.

He tried to address this where he was: home visits, printing and stapling books off the internet, etc. and found all of it to be inefficient. He did find, though, his students made significant academic progress with this intervention.

When he moved back to Omaha, his home community, he decided to systemize this effort: helping teachers not be the only ones delivering books. Starting a nonprofit to come alongside schools was the first innovation, and Omaha was a great first city for the organization’s start. Strategically, David was considering other metro areas for this work, but with the willingness of the local philanthropic community to invest in the public education environment, Omaha was the clear first choice.

More Innovation
So how do you actually get the books into students’ hands, in backpacks, back home and exchanged at the school?  David piloted a web-based software using QR codes to gamify and allow students to own the process. Kids select their book, scan it for tracking, and check in the material before the process starts over with the next book. The coding system allows for the school and classroom to set and exceed reading goals.

DIBS for Kids Impact:
  • 12 schools
  • 3,000+ students served
  • 400,000+ books read
  • 80+: average number of books read by each DIBS Kid every school year
  • 9x: average number of times every book donated to DIBS is read by students
Impact through the DIBS Team:
David would never credit himself with all the good work that has been done alongside the DIBS partner schools. For the past six years, DIBS has been an AmeriCorps VISTA partnering agency. These Volunteers In Service To America members build capacity for projects across the nonprofit sector, specifically those addressing poverty or basic needs. DIBS for Kids VISTA members run social media, further develop the check-out process for the schools, track impact numbers and generate the reports needed for community understanding of the organization.

David also credits the recent surge in scaling across Omaha Public Schools to Marie Kovar, the DIBS school support director. She started with the program as a parent volunteer, and eventually her previous professional experience as a bilingual school psychologist began to be useful as the program flourished in her daughter’s school, Adams Elementary.

“She’s the driving force behind our program. Her interfacing with the teachers has tripled the size of our program in three years. [Marie] sees clearly the need and is able to run with it,” David graciously said of her entrepreneurial spirit in growing and deepening relationships with schools in the program. He says Marie dropping in to check on classrooms and being an additional caring face for the teachers and administrators is enabled by her passion and personality.

What’s next? How can I help do good?
DIBS for Kids is prioritizing five new OPS elementary schools in August, which will allow DIBS to run an external evaluation regarding how the adoption of and adherence to the program affects student academic achievement. This data will be pivotal as DIBS considers scaling to more schools, including those outside of Omaha.

If you want to get more involved with DIBS by making a gift or fulfilling a wish list item for the organization check out their SHAREomaha.org profile in addition to their website. Easy ways to start your relationship are waiting for you there.

Who are your Do-Gooders?
We bet you can think of someone like David and Marie – those who had a seed of an idea or started small with a project and have seen that work flourish for others. Tell us! Shoot an email to info@SHAREomaha.org or find us on social media. SHARE Omaha exists to be a conduit between nonprofit needs and public doing good. The best ways, we think, to spur that action is to inspire through telling stories of Do-Gooder actions and emphasizing that tiny acts of goodness add up to a healthy and engaged community.
 
The Lifting Up Do-Gooders column, written by SHARE Omaha executive director Marjorie Maas, runs bi-monthly in metroMAGAZINE. See the original publication of this article here on page 34.