CCMH benefits from book program founded by teen

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By Kristin Beck

You are never too young or too old to make a difference in someone’s life.

Carah Austin, a 16-year-old from Whiteland, Ind., has done more in her young life for the benefit of others than some may do in triple the amount of time. Austin founded the Find a Book a Home Foundation/History Makers of the Future Inc., which collects and donates books to hospitals in the region, including Carroll County Memorial Hospital, and national organizations. She also organizes an historic day trip to Madison, Ind., for local children.

When she was three years old, Austin was treated at King’s Daughters’ Hospital in Madison, Ind. for spinal meningitis. She went home for a while but got ill again and had to come back. It ended up being a two to three month process before she fully recovered.

While hospitalized, Austin’s mother, Cher, remembers the hospital personnel making her daughter balloon animals and fixing special food for her.  

“I praise that hospital; they were wonderful,” Cher said. “The doctors were just fantastic, and (Carah) felt like she should give something back to the community.”

Later when she was in fourth grade, Austin was in line at a book fair behind another little girl. Other childrenasked the little girl why she was not getting any books, and Austin heard her say that she would like to get a book but she could not afford it. Those two experiences motivated her to start the foundation.

“My parents have always made my education important, and I think it’s important that people who can’t get books get the opportunity to,” she said.

Austin started collecting books in fifth grade. She said at first it was a little nerve-wracking to ask her peers for help, but it has gotten a lot easier and is something she really cares about. The foundation became nationally certified through the Internal Revenue Service and incorporated by the state of Indiana in 2007.

Austin now receives books from Half Priced Books in Greenwood, Ind. and the Optimist Club in Centergrove, Ind., as well as individual donors.

Valencia Penick, chief nursing officer for Carroll County Memorial Hospital, said Austin and her mom contacted her asking if the hospital would like a donation last fall. Penick asked them to wait because the hospital was in the middle of the renovation for the Nancy Goff Delph medical-surgical wing and did not have anywhere to store them. They contacted her again in the spring, but Austin’s mom became ill and were unable to bring the books. Penick said they contacted her again last week and were finally able to bring the books.

The books and new bookshelf are located in the activities room of the hospital. Penick said they will be used by the skill patients, who can be in the hospital for two to six weeks. They are provided with a daily activity, so the donation will give them a wide variety of reading material. The books will also be available to the acute care patients, she said.

Penick said she requested books geared toward adults, although there are a few children’s included because they occasionally take care of younger patients. She said she also received requests for Western books, so Austin delivered a box full of those.

Among other places, the foundation has donated books to King’s Daughters, the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, Disaster Relief through the Red Cross, Angel Tree Giving, and Shop with a Cop and established a library in the Grace Point Church in Whiteland.

In addition to the book collection, Austin also began taking 120 children on a 12-hour historical trip to Madison every summer since 2007. She said she chose Madison because her grandmother moved there from Trimble County, and she has spent a lot of time there learning about the historical aspects of the town.

The trip is for children with special needs, ADHD or financial needs. Austin said she sends letters to teachers at the four elementary schools in the Clark Pleasant School Corporation in Whiteland in the spring, and the teachers determine which students would benefit from the trip. There is no cost to the children, and Austin finds sponsors to donate food and many of the locations they visit gives the group breaks on entry fees.

Cher Austin described her daughter as being a good kid who is extremely humble. She said she gets embarrassed when she talks about her accomplishments, which include being honored by the Smithsonian Institute and receiving the Silver Congressional Medal Award.

Penick said she thought it was wonderful that Austin took the initiative to start the foundation.

“I think she’s a really innovative young lady and giving of herself, and she should be greatly rewarded for this.”

To donate books to the foundation, contact Austin through her website: www.historymakersofthefuture.webs.com. There are also donation drop offs in Whiteland.