This Christmas, some families who visited their local food bank received holiday baskets that included something extra.
A handful of comic books.
It's all part of the Comic Book Connection Initiative, a charity that gives away comics to kids in need. The organization collects overstocked and used comic books, then gives them to charities that serve children.
The charity's organizer, Fate Spears, recently got a lot of attention when Newsarama interviewed him about the fledgling organization, and the article was syndicated across the Internet.
As a result, his idea to give comics to kids has caught on.
"The response has been tremendous," Spears said. "We've received so many boxes of comics. We have so many comics, we just can't get them out fast enough. And we've gotten emails from people who want to start chapters in other cities."
Spears is hoping to soon start chapters in Florida and Connecticut, thanks to the publicity. "Plus, we were contacted by a lawyer who saw the article, and he's helping us get a 501(c)3 charity status and all the nuts and bolts to make this official," Spears said.
The charity has a website in development now, and Spears has contacts at New York Comic Con and Comic Con International in San Diego -- two of the largest comic conventions in the U.S. "We're hoping to have tables at some conventions so we can collect comics there," Spears said, citing the success of the organization's October appearance at Mid-Ohio Comic Con.
The Comic Book Connection Initiative has donated hundreds of comics to local charities in Columbus, Ohio. "They've been ecstatic over them," he said. "And some of these are issues of, like, Valiant Comics or Malibu, or things that, as a comic book reader, we think belongs in the quarter bin and will sit there for a long time. But they love them. These kids are just thrilled to have something special to call their own and to read again and again."
Spears even separates out donated comics that are too "mature" for children, then sends them to U.S. soldiers who are stationed overseas. And the charity also recently partnered with a group in Cleveland that promotes education of underprivileged children.
"We just want to put all these comics to good use," he said. "The response from the charity groups we've been working with has been terrific. We work with two food pantries, one homeless shelter, one after-school program in a really economically depressed area, and then the children's hospital. So it's just been amazing."
The whole idea for the charity was spawned when Spears, an avid comic book fan for years, was encouraged by his wife to sell some of his old comics. But what she didn't know is that many of the "collectibles" that Spears had been storing on boxes all those years weren't actually worth anything.
"I admitted it to her. I said, 'Honey, I can't even give these away. And she said, 'Oh yes you can,'" he said with a laugh. "That's where the Comic Book Connection Initiative was born."The charity started with Spears gathering donations at local comic shops, but he recently approached publishers about the idea.
"We've been getting so many donations," he said. "IDW sent a huge case. Sphinx Group, who publishes Lora Innes' The Dreamer, sent a bunch. Dark Horse is planning on sending some. I've gotten responses from all of them."
Spears said he'd like to hear from more fans, retailers or publishers who want to help out, either by donating comics or starting a similar charity in their own area.
"I just don't know why nobody's done this before," he said. "There are kids out there that don't have the Nintendos and the PlayStations. They don't have things to read. Or their reading skills aren't to the point that they can read full-fledged novels. This is something they will enjoy reading. And these comics are just laying there until someone throws them out. So why not make them do something good for kids?"
Comic Book Connection Initiative can be reached at email@example.com or on the group's Facebook page. For donations of comics, send them to Comic Book Connection Initiative, c/o Comic Town, 1249 Morse Rd., Columbus, OH 43229.