Volunteer of the Month | Steve Frantzich
Jan 20, 2011 06:53PM ● Published by Anonymous
Frantzich oversees the independent, nonprofit entity, which processes over 400,000 books per year—shipping them to developing communities around the world. The goals of B.I.G. are to advance literacy, learning, and economic well-being through the use of donated (recycled) books. Fittingly, B.I.G.’s motto is “Spreading Literacy by Keeping Books Alive.”
B.I.G. began about fifteen years ago when a Parole Rotary Club of Annapolis-sponsored foreign exchange student went back to South Africa and found there were no books in the school where she would be principal. Rotary member Leonard Blackshear was inspired to do something about the situation so he took on the task of assembling a book collection container with the help of Parole Rotary. “We received more books than a container would hold, so we decided to do another, and it just kept going,” says Frantzich. “B.I.G. recently shipped its 3.5 millionth book and 160th container!”
Frantzich has been involved with B.I.G. since volunteering in the program’s second year. He was subsequently asked to chair the organization and has served as its president ever since. “I am a ‘hands on person,’” he says. “My greatest joy is going down to the warehouse to do packing and sorting. I try never to ask a volunteer to do something I would not do. I end up doing a lot of picking up trash and preparing for volunteers. I have a great board of directors, all of who like to pitch in. We share activities such as booking shipments, communicating with recipients, coordinating volunteers, and raising funds.” In addition to his work with B.I.G., Frantzich has served in a wide variety of offices at Calvary Methodist Church, on the board of the Dirksen Center, Center on Congress, and Center on Civic Education. The author of 20 books, Frantzich has been a professor of political science at the U.S. Naval Academy for 31 years. He also consults C-SPAN, the U.S. Congress, and a variety of foreign legislatures. But it is his volunteer work he considers the most rewarding and . . .humbling. “I am the most fortunate volunteer, since I have actually been involved in delivering books to the Czech Republic, Kenya, Malawi, Kazakhstan, and South Africa,” explains Frantzich. “When visiting 16 schools in Kenya, I was treated like royalty with whole school assemblies, songs, dances, tributes, and speeches by local politicians. People who had virtually nothing showered us with gifts. It was very humbling. Walking unexpectedly into a library in Kenya and seeing a student engrossed in a book with a “Books for International Goodwill” label on the front was a real thrill.”
Married for 41 years to wife Jane, Frantzich has three sons and three grandchildren. He cites family as his inspiration. “I believe we are placed on this earth to serve others. My parents were always the first one to raise their hands when something needed to be done. We are so fortunate in this country that we each owe a debt to others. There is no way any of us can save the world, but if we each focus on one small problem, the cumulative effect would be amazing. As a writer I have great respect for the power of books. I find my work with B.I.G. as just a small way to give back.”
This September 12th, B.I.G. will host its first of several used book sales during the fall at its warehouse in Lothian. The book sales provide the main source of funding for the program. Hardbacks cost $1.50 and paperbacks are only $0.50. “There are some great deals,” says Frantzich, who also notes that the organization is seeking a permanent warehouse location in Annapolis. To learn more about B.I.G. and the book sale events (held every six weeks), visit Big-Books.org. You can donate your used books by dropping them off at the warehouse or the Annapolis Drop-Off Center, located at Extra Space Storage behind Toys-R-Us on West Street.