KPMG gives books to Louisiana students

Greg Fischer
The KFFL book fair mascot "Kiffle" poses with Sheri Boehm, Lee Anne Sciambra, Debbie Ozanus and Lisa Gorham of KPMG. Some kiddos couldn't help but jump in the photo, last minute.

More than 100 teachers made their way to Lamar Dixon in Gonzales Saturday, March 11 to choose from 10,000 new books to bring back to their classrooms.

Volunteers like Assistant Library Director John Stelly with the Ascension Parish Library went to work loading cars and trucks with books for teachers on the misty, overcast morning. Stelly said that the teachers had been showing up in waves.

Stelly got to work at the event at 7:30 a.m., along with others. Participants were provided with coffee and any type of donut you could dream of.

"KPMG has done this nationwide, but I don't know if they've done it here before," Stelly said.

In fact, teachers from 47 schools in Ascension Parish, New Orleans and Baton Rouge participated. Each were able to select 100 books. This is a newer approach to an old program, where KPMG would typically visit area schools 3-4 times per year. Their old literacy initiative involved bringing books to schools and holding reading activities, according to KPMG Managing Partner Lee Anne Sciambra.

"This is the first time we've done the book fair in this area," Sciambra said.

KPMG is a global audit, tax and consulting firm. The firm has been established in New Orleans since 1909, and enjoys giving back to the community in education and literacy, according to Sciambra.

"Our firm as a whole is very focused on literacy," Sciambra said. "We're active in other organizations that are about educating children at an early age. 'Family for Literacy' is what we've termed our firm initiative, but we do a lot of other organizations, too, that are focused on educating students.

"Through this program we are teaming with FirstBook, a non-profit organization. They are providing the books, and we are distributing them."

Taking a look around the book fair, one would notice not only textbooks geared toward specific grade-level needs, but also stacks of fun books, like Spider-Man books. The "Read to Succeed" initiative also features its own mascot, a giant kangaroo named "Kiffle." With Kiffle walking around and taking pictures, naturally the event was kid-friendly.

"I think, as a firm, we're giving away 150,000 books this year around the country," Sciambra said.

Lastly, of the eight book fairs given nationwide, the Southern Louisiana push was disaster-centric. It has been not only focused on flood victims in Ascension and surrounding parishes for a year, according to Debbie Ozanus, National co-chair for KFFL, but also on recent tornado victims.

"All of the pre-k through fifth grade schools in Ascension Parish were invited to this event," Lisa Gorham, KFFL champion in the area, said.

The total amount of books that KFFL has donated is 3,000,000. That's not a typo.

"We're very proud of that," Ozanus said.

She should be.

Follow Greg on Twitter @AscensionEditor