Benefit auction to help raise money for ‘Textbooks for Troops’

Cameron Koch

Students looking to take a break from studying for finals this weekend may want to swing by the Augenstein Alumni Center at 1 p.m. Saturday for a benefit auction, with the proceeds going to WKU’s Military Student Services.

Military Student Services is looking to expand and continue its Textbooks for Troops program with the funds from the event, which will feature refreshments and an appearance from the therapy dog, CanDoo.

Textbooks for Troops is a textbook lending service that began in the spring of 2012, allowing those active in the military and veterans to receive textbooks free of charge. The program expanded this summer to include military spouses and children as eligible for free textbooks.

At the event, there will be both a live and silent auction and a wide variety of items such as signed footballs, video games, “finals week survival kits” and a script and photo signed by the cast of NCIS, donated by the show’s leading man, Mark Harmon.

Teresa Jameson, Textbooks for Troops coordinator, said Military Student Services has never done an event of this size or type before.

“We were trying to come up with ways to come up with extra money to put into the program,” Jameson said. “Eventually, we are going to run out of the seed money we started with, especially since we are spending about $20,000 a semester to buy books for our students.”

She said she came up with the idea of a benefit auction because she had seen them be very successful on campus before.

“One hundred percent of every penny earned goes to buy textbooks for military students,” Jameson said. “None of it is used for overhead.”

Jameson said she and other volunteers reached out to various groups and organizations throughout the country to ask for donations, as well as talking to local businesses.

“There is going to be just about anything anybody might want, to tell you the truth, from tickets to gift baskets…jewelry, video games — anything you can think of,” she said.

The program has received attention this semester after being awarded a $20,000 grant from the WKU Sisterhood. Textbooks for Troops is also a primary reason why WKU was named the seventh “Best For Vets” four-year college in the nation as determined by Military Times Magazine.

Tonya Archey, Military Student Services director, said the program at WKU is unique.

“It’s not only just the textbook program, but the other programs we have, like CanDoo, our therapy dog…if there is a program out there with a larger textbook program or a therapy dog, I have not heard of it,” she said.

Archey said many veterans seeking an education don’t like to ask for help.

“They are used to taking care of themselves and being independent,” she said. “They aren’t out there looking for ways to save money, but they should be, everybody should be looking for ways to save money. Sometimes they just never learn this kind of program exists.”

She said because of deployment schedules and other factors, many military students miss or do not know about scholarship deadlines or don’t qualify.

“A lot of our military students are not able to get grants and scholarships a more traditional student would get,” she said.

Military Student Services currently serves about 1,700 active military, veteran or military spouses and children who are enrolled in classes this semester, Archey said. Jameson said the textbook program has grown in size every semester since its creation, which makes the money raised from the auction even more important.

Archey said a key reason Military Student Services has found success is that they understand what military students go through because like them, the program’s staff are military veterans.

“We’ve already walked in their shoes,” she said. “We understand the challenges that college puts before a military member.”