In Our Communities

Transforming Lives through Books, Libraries, and Services

A child’s access to reading material is one of the strongest predictors of his or her ability to succeed academically, yet more than 60 percent of children living in low-income families have no books at all in their homes, according to The Heart of America Foundation®, a nonprofit dedicated to providing children in need with the tools to read, succeed and make a difference.

Since 1997, The Heart of America Foundation has been growing children’s interest in reading in low-income communities across 43 states.

When The Heart of America Foundation’s co-founders Bill and Angie Halamandaris first created the Washington, D.C.-based charity, their mission was to promote volunteer service among children and students. They sponsored a speaker’s series that brought inspirational young ambassadors to local schools to talk with children about the value of volunteering and making a difference in their communities.

Yet, from its very earliest days, the young speakers returned from their school visits with stories of unmet needs at local schools. One speaker returned from a public school in one of Washington, D.C.’s poorest neighborhoods to report the children had no books.

Bill and Angie were stunned that schools just miles from the White House and U.S. Capitol lacked the most basic tool in learning. So, they organized a book drive and collected 6,000 books for the school.

“We did a survey and found out that many poor children not only didn’t have books at home, but they were also attending schools where there were no books in the libraries and classrooms,” recalls Angie. “If you have no books in the classroom, no library and no books at home, how are you going to compete with children who do?’’

Within a few years, Bill and Angie realized that providing the books alone was not sufficient. The classroom and school libraries in many urban schools were falling apart with old worn furniture and carpeting.

It broke our hearts. A library should be the heart and soul of the school, a safe harbor — Angie Halamandaris

Through this organic discovery, The Heart of America Foundation evolved and acquired a new focus - putting books into the hands of children who need them the most and providing all students with an inviting, safe place to develop a lifelong love of reading. Uniquely committed to education and volunteerism, The Heart of America Foundation’s programs engage volunteers in revitalizing school libraries and reading spaces in under-resourced communities into vital and vibrant centers of learning.

Capital One has been a key partner of The Heart of America Foundation since 2001. Together, Capital One and The Heart of America Foundation have revitalized more than 40 libraries for children in low-income communities across the country and donated books valued at more than $9.5 million to over 470,000 students.

More than just a financial commitment, hundreds of Capital One associates have volunteered to help transform the new library spaces and provide books for students in low-income schools. Capital One volunteers also provide financial education activities for children at the schools where it is revitalizing libraries.

“Heart of America would not be what it is today without Capital One’s investment,’’ Angie says. “Tens of thousands of lives have been changed because of that investment. The beautiful thing we get to do is help put into practice a corporate culture of investing in the community. All of the people we work with at Capital One have a commitment to community and a love of the company and what they are doing."

Since 1997, The Heart of America Foundation has provided children living in poverty with over two million library and take-home books and has engaged volunteers in more than one million hours of service to communities nationwide.