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He'd like to collect 100,000 books before it is time for him to go

Last week a truck rolled up to the Carter County Library and the Rocky J. Adkins Public Library in Elliott County, where state workers unpacked boxes and boxes of books neither library could afford to buy.

That scene was played out at libraries in Menifee and Magoffin counties this week. Next week Lee, Letcher and Powell counties will be the recipients.

They are the beneficiaries of one man's desire to give young people a different path to travel.

Jim Davis, 64, of Shepherdsville, in Bullitt County, said he was touched by a Kentucky Educational Television program about two months ago decrying the disproportionate number of high school dropouts in some Eastern Kentucky counties as well as the increase in teen pregnancies and soaring use of illegal drugs.

"If we don't do something now to keep kids in school and give them a good education, this whole country is going to hell in a hand basket," Davis said.

He contacted Bullitt County Public Schools and churches in that area, asking people to help him collect 100,000 books for libraries that needed them. He asked for textbooks, reference books, children's books, anything people had on their shelves collecting dust but not enhancing minds.

Word got out, and soon he was receiving books and phone calls from Kentucky and other states. Barnes & Noble is donating 7,000 new books.

"I've got school books and books on tape," Davis said. "A tractor- trailer pulled up Friday full of books. They set them in my driveway, and we put a tarp over them."

And more keep coming.

Mindy Woods, a Carter County library board member, said the library in Olive Hill transitioned Sept. 2 to a public library from one set up by volunteers, and it needed books badly.

"Everything we have is donated," Woods said. "Books, furniture and even the circulation desk."

On Nov. 4, the truck arrived, she said, and the library now has the exciting problem of having to sort through them. Some of the books were delivered to the library in Grayson, too. "It is about 8,000 books," Woods said. "We're tickled pink."

No more than the folks in Elliott County.

Jaclyn Cox, manager of the Adkins library in Sandy Hook, said she received notice a week before the truck's arrival, which couldn't have come at a better time. "We were so ecstatic," she said. "We get state aid, and that has dropped 10 percent."

Cox said she received about 2,600 books, and "we are very, very grateful."

One donation that she particularly loved was the Kentucky Math Connections series that will help her tutor students in the after-school program she offers.

That is exactly what Davis was hoping for.

Gov. Steve Beshear's office has been helping to coordinate the collection and delivery of the books to libraries selected by the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives.

To thank Davis and to highlight his efforts, first lady Jane Beshear will hold a news conference from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Monday at the Powell County Library in Stanton. A truck will be there with boxes of more welcomed books.

Davis plans to be there as well, health permitting.

See, Davis saw that KET documentary while recovering from rounds of radiation and chemotherapy for cancers found in his brain, lungs and hip in January.

"The doctors gave me a year to 18 months to live," he said.

But the treatment sent the cancers into remission, he said. Follow-up CT and PET scans, however, found cancer in his neck, lower spine and stomach, he said.

This time he declined surgery or radiation treatments. Instead, Davis has been taking a medication that has improved his energy level and his appetite.

"I had never been in the hospital up to then," Davis said. "I'd never been sick in my life."

Davis, a retired truck driver and widower, said his four children all have college degrees and good jobs.

"I wanted to try to help other kids stay in school," he said. "The future of our country is our children. We need to keep them in school and get them an education. That will help keep them off drugs."

Davis estimates he and others have collected 50,000 books. That's halfway to his goal.

Although he plans to be in Powell County on Monday, "I'm not doing this for that," he said. "This is something I can do before I'm gone."

If you would like to help Davis collect books, call him at (502) 428-6029.