Jim Benefiel: A dedicated Next Door volunteer

If you pass by Next Door’s book room during the week, you will more than likely find Jim Benefiel sitting at his regular spot at the far end of the table.

“It’s something to look forward to. It’s something that you can come in here and do and get a good feeling from,” Jim said.

The 76-year-old volunteers in the book room most days of the week where he cleans and repairs donated books Next Door receives for its Books for Kids program.

The work in the book room is big part of that program because it helps ensure the books are as good as new when Next Door distributes them for free to its students and children across Milwaukee to help them build their home libraries.

“I want to do something that will help them. If they start now when they are little and learn to love books, reading will always be something that they will be able to enjoy the rest of their lives,” Jim said.

Jim – a retried stationary engineer – joined Next Door as a volunteer in 2009. He started out reading stories to Next Door students in the library and later moved down the hall to volunteer in the book room.

Last year, Jim recorded nearly 2,000 hours of service in the book room. With each two-hour visit, he pours through hundreds of donated books and gives them what he calls “a little loving care” through the various tools volunteers use to spruce up the books that need it. Every now and then, Jim comes across a book he remembers reading as a child.

“The “Dick and Jane” books – those are what I started reading on,” he said. “I’ve come across “The Gingerbread Man” and remember lying in a hammock and reading that one as a kid.”

Reading was a big part of Jim’s childhood. He recalls going to the library each week for a new supply of books. He loved the adventure that came with each story.

“Reading increases your imagination, it increases your thirst for knowledge, you want to learn a little bit more,” Jim said.

Through his volunteer work at Next Door, Jim hopes he can share the wonderful reading experiences he treasured as a child with Next Door students. He gets a chance to see their excitement build when the children pass by the book room after picking out a book to take home from the library.

“I see them walking by cuddling the books – they get such joy with that. I’m hoping they continue to have that zeal once they get older,” Jim said.

Click HERE if you would like to learn more about volunteering in the book room and other Next Door opportunities.

As part of Next Door’s 50th Anniversary celebration in 2019, we’re recognizing volunteers like Jim who have performed more than 50 hours of service over the past year with a special T-shirt.  

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