Like a team of literacy superheroes, two local women have collaborated to provide free books for families served by the foster care system of Tennessee.
Michelle Somers, who has established several Little Free Library Carts, and Kara Puckett, a parishioner at St. Ignatius of Antioch Church in Antioch and the founder of Nashville Foster Love Closet, have joined forces to provide free books through Puckett’s agency.
Somers has always loved to read. She has been a librarian and involved in numerous book clubs throughout her life. To those at her parish of St. Ann Church, she is affectionately known as the “book lady.”
“When I go to Mass, I see kids I know, all excited asking me how the libraries are going.”
Inspired by the book carts Somers once saw in the subway systems of Atlanta, she opened her first free book cart in 2017 at her home. In 2019, she approached Catholic Charities, Diocese of Nashville with her idea to start a book cart program at its Loaves and Fishes program, which provides free meals to the hungry three days a week at Holy Name Church.
The Little Free Library Cart idea has since spread to five Catholic Charities locations. It is a white cart with three shelves and is adorned with a pink ribbon. Above the ribbon is a sign that reads, FREE Library Cart. The note below features easy-to-follow instructions. “Choose any book you’d like. Take it with you to read. Keep it, Share it. Or bring it back!”
Somers goes place to place gathering books and often takes requests; she once selflessly provided a dictionary for someone who had a special need. Over the past six years, she has accumulated more than 10,000 books. Somers and her book carts were even featured on WPLN’s “This is Nashville” program, which features citizens of Nashville doing free community services for other residents in the city.
Her love of reading and faith prompted her to help more and more people who were struggling or just needed a book to get them through the day. Whether it be a homeless person or those in the foster care system, Somers puts the needs of others ahead of her own.
“It’s broadened my life incredibly just by all the people I’ve met,” Somers said of the Little Free Library Carts.
When Somers heard about the Nashville Foster Love Closet (NFLC) through an article she read in the Tennessee Register this past spring, she jumped at the opportunity to help. She contacted Puckett, and since then, she has provided more than 500 books to those in the foster care system.
The collaborative effort with Somers has been a “blessing,” said Puckett. “We had no intention of doing this,” Puckett said. “It’s just kind of a God’s plan thing.”
Puckett, an alum of Holy Rosary Academy and Father Ryan High School, started NFLC in January 2022 and has served more than 750 children, providing support, materials, and resources for families involved in the foster care system. NFLC officially became a non-profit organization in September 2022.
According to the organization America’s Kids Belong, there are 8,991 youths in care across Tennessee. Anything helps, whether it be through donations or volunteer hours, Puckett said. There are several volunteer opportunities for the Nashville Foster Love Closet. They host events for families and children.
“Not everyone’s called to be a foster parent, but everyone can do something to help,” said Puckett.
To donate books, email Somers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To donate your time or items to help children in need, such as clothes, or toiletries, email Puckett at email@example.com or visit www.nashvillefosterlovecloset.com