After three hours of hammering, gluing and fastening tiny libraries together Friday morning, Primerica volunteers participating in the annual Gwinnett Great Days of Service at Annandale Village let out a cheer.
The reason for the celebration? It wasn't because the group of 48 volunteers was done for the day. It was because they had surpassed their goal of building 60 tiny libraries for a joint project of the Community Foundation of Northeast Georgia and the Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services.
In fact, the Primerica volunteers surpassed their goal by about one-third.
"Alright everyone, we've built 80 libraries so far," said Primerica Vice President of Human Resources Laura Gibbs, prompting the cheers.
Primerica has been a regular partner in the coalition's Gwinnett Great Days of Service, which began with projects on Friday and continued Saturday, for years. This year marked the 20th anniversary of Gwinnett Great Days of Service.
More than 50 community service projects were scheduled to take place throughout Gwinnett over a two-day period, according to the Gwinnett Great Days of Service website.
Projects undertaken by about 3,000 volunteers from business, churches, community groups and individual volunteers over the two-day period benefit organizations such as the HomeFirst Gwinnett Initiative; the Lawrenceville Cooperative Ministry; Sleep In Heavenly Peace-GA, Gwinnett County; and the Salvation Army of Gwinnett County.
Projects also addressed a range of community issues ranging from increasing access to books in so-called "literacy desserts" in the county to cleaning up garbage along waterways.
In the past, Primerica has done outdoor projects, such as building gardens and bocce courts for Annandale Village, for the county-wide service effort.
"Primerica always engages their employees in volunteer service, and we’re just thankful," Gwinnett Coalition Chief Operating Officer Keith Fenton said. "The impact that they'e going to have on this (tiny library) project is immeasurable."
The company's employees are involved in several other community service activities as well, including helping the Alzheimer's Association with next weekend's Walk to End Alzheimer's in Duluth. Primerica is that event's presenting sponsor.
Primerica also does food drives, blanket drives, sponsors Gwinnett Relay For Life and participates in the annual Can-A-Thon. Earlier this year, it donated a vehicle to the Red Cross to help with blood drives — and held a blood drive of its own.
“Anywhere there’s a need, you’ll see Primerica faces there,” Primerica Programs and Events Coordinator Roxanne Tigue said.
This year’s participation in Gwinnett Great Days of Service was a bit different for Primerica since the tiny library build was an indoor project.
Primerica consulted the Gwinnett Coalition for advice on projects that a greater number of employees could volunteer for regardless of skill level. Gibbs said the literacy aspect of the project also made it appealing to the company.
“It’s awesome what we’re doing for the community as far as the early learning to help those 0-5 (kids) get the right start,” Gibbs said.
That’s part of how Primerica approaches community projects.
“We look for projects that are large in scale and where we can make a difference in the community,” Gibbs said.
The coalition suggested the tiny libraries project. Before Friday, students at Maxwell High School prepared the pieces for assembly and Primerica employees then put them together Friday while the coalition brought in another group of volunteers to finish up on Saturday.
The libraries will be placed around the county in places — such as extended stay hotels, parks, co-ops or low income residential communities — that don’t have easy access to early learning books for kids under 5.
“What we’ve found is that with the brain growing as fast as it grows — from the time a child is born, we have 700 neurons per second being made — the brain will grow more in the first five years than the rest of your life,” Community Foundation of Northeast Georgia Early Learning Taskforce member John Upchurch said.
“That’s one of the reasons why this is so important.”
So once Primerica settled on the tiny library project, Gibbs and Tigue put out a call for volunteers to the company’s employees to help with the project.
Their goal was to get 40 volunteers.
Forty-eight signed up.
“We would have had more than that but we had to cut off at a certain point,” Tigue said.
Gibbs later added, “We’re always turning people away depending on the scope of the project. So that’s what we always ask the coalition for in advance: What are some of the larger scale project that are going to be done that day (to get more volunteer opportunities)?”
That — and the fact that the volunteers built 20 more tiny libraries than they had planned to assemble — is why Tigue described Primerica’s employees a group of overachievers.
“This is a community of do-ers,” Tigue said. “It’s part of the Primerica culture. They give back. We’ve got so many opportunities to volunteer at work. All we have to do is just say we’re doing something and people step up.”