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Books, Butterflies, and Bold Leadership


Kendal Patty of Knoxville collected over 27,000 donated books to build book trees promoting literacy for her Girl Scout Gold Award. The book trees were on display in Nashville and Knoxville throughout the holidays and will be distributed to children in shelters, hospitals, and schools.

In her twelve years as a Girl Scout, Kendal’s favorite thing is the volunteer opportunities she’s been exposed to—and watching her community grow together. Seeing a need for literacy in every child’s life, she developed her Gold Award project as way to bring awareness and take action. The project’s butterfly theme was inspired by famous East Tennessean Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

In the end, she created three trees built from the 27,000 donated books she collected, each taking over 8 hours to create. Each resembling the other, the trees could be found at the Knoxville Convention Center, Governor’s Mansion, and Teen Board of Knoxville, gaining exposure at events like Fantasy of Trees and the governor’s annual Christmas party.

Started a year and half ago, the timeline of the project is still on-going. Kendal spoke at a variety of organizations—clubs, schools, Girl Scout groups, and more—to raise awareness and start her collection, requesting books specifically from the Imagination Library reading list, which will then be distributed to those in need across East Tennessee. To create a sustainable solution to her Gold Award project, anyone can log on to her website and have a book read to them.

Along with the support from the community, Kendal, whose favorite book is the The House That Jack Built by Jeanette Winter, is proud of the response to the project—gaining plenty of praise and recognition from social media and local media.

Even with the huge success of the project, she faced setbacks and rejections. A partnership with the post office didn’t work out. Finding space to store the thousands of books became difficult. Building the trees became an unexpected engineering project with the variety of book sizes. Despite these difficulties, Kendal hopes to keep promoting literacy and is really enjoying the journey.

Kendal, who wants to become a pediatric radiologist, learned through earning her Gold Award that she enjoys public speaking – especially talking about issues needing to be fixed. Asking her community to come together and donate nearly 30,000 books has certainly made an impact on the development of the younger generation.