KENTWOOD — Talking amid shelves of books in a warehouse littered with huge boxes of even more books, Kurt Berends offered one perspective on the work of the nonprofit organization he started four years ago: “We’re waste removal.”
Of course, that’s only half the story. The real magic of Theological Book Network comes in turning academic trash from U.S. libraries into treasure for under-resourced areas in other parts of the world.
The small but growing operation takes unwanted books from U.S. schools and ships them to schools in Africa, southeast Asia and eastern Europe. What started in Berends’ garage is moving into an 18,000-square-foot Kentwood warehouse with a $1.2 million budget, six full-time staff and annual shipments of more than 200,000 books.
As the effort removes excess from U.S. libraries, it fosters brainpower in other parts of the world, Berends said.
“For years, all your best scholars have come to the West to train and they never returned,” said Berends, 45, a former Notre Dame and Calvin College professor. “Our goal is to provide resources that will allow scholars (in other parts of the world) to have thoughtful, reflective conversations. The ability to do that will have significant payoff.
“We’re just scratching the surface of the need right now.”
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GRAND RAPIDS — There are some books destined to become best sellers and others only a handful of readers will crack open. The Theological Book Network Inc. helps find new homes for some of those dusty tomes in far-flung corners of the world.
Walk through the nonprofit’s 16,000-square-foot warehouse at 3529 Patterson Ave. SE and any staff member quickly will tell you why it considers its roughly 250,000 to 325,000 donated and newly purchased books and journals academic gold.
All of them are apt to one day find a home in Protestant and Catholic seminaries, colleges and universities in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Middle East to provide theological training to seminary and post-graduate students who will go on to become clergy and other church leaders, said Kurt Berends, executive director of the Theological Book Network.
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