The story seems more Hollywood than real life.
Successful corporate analyst chucks a six-figure salary to help underprivileged children in his home state.
But that's what Jonathan Beatty, a native of Hazard did last year.
The change was prompted by an article published in The New York Times in June with the headline "What's the Matter with Eastern Kentucky?" It noted that when evaluating "educational attainment, household income, jobless rate, disability rate, life expectancy and obesity rate," six counties in Eastern Kentucky landed in the bottom 10 nationally out of more than 3,100 studied.
James P. Ziliak, the director of the Center for Poverty Research at the University of Kentucky, is quoted in the article saying, "... there has been a historic lack of investment in human capital in these areas."
Beatty, 31, who also grew up in Hazard, took that article to heart. "I had no idea it was as bad as it was," he said. "I wanted to educate those in the corporate world and find ways to help."
His family had pushed education as the key to success and he decided to use his business background to push that as well.
He left San Francisco, where he was a finance manager for McKesson Corporation and Big Heart Pet Brands, and returned to Kentucky last year.
"I don't know anyone who left a $150,000 job and moved across the country to make a difference. I have the experience to make not only a difference, but also bring hope."
He founded Servonta Strategic Philanthropy, a business focused on building collaborations between businesses, agencies and organizations to benefit those in need. "I don't have all the answers but what I'm doing is giving my best effort," he said.
In March he started a statewide virtual book drive called "Get LIT Kentucky," in which people can donate money on the Indiegogo crowdfunding site to purchase new books that will be given to underprivileged children throughout the state. The early focus has been in Eastern Kentucky, Louisville and Lexington.
For each $10 donation, Servonta purchases three books through a partnership with Scholastic, Inc.
That drive began on March 4 and ends on April 15.
Just like any Hollywood production, things have not quite gone as planned. When he started fundraising, Beatty had not anticipated how little attention he could generate during March Madness. Donations slowed to less than a trickle, and, with the campaign drawing to a close, Beatty is afraid his goal of raising $25,000 won't be met. Less than $4,000 has been raised.
If they get a bump in donations this week, Beatty said he will extend the campaign 15 more days.
With some of his own money, he has donated 1,000 books to the Carnegie Center for Literacy & Learning; 1,000 to William Wells Brown Elementary School; and 250 books to the Ronald McDonald House.
Jay Jones Jr., William Wells Brown's principal, said he was thrilled when Beatty contacted him about the donation of books.
"We do have a need for library books," Jones said. "Our collection is outdated and small. Some of the books the students were allowed to take home and the rest were put on the shelves."
Karen Morrison-Jackson, library media specialist at the school, said she had to cull through the books when they were brought to the new school from the former Johnson Elementary. Far too many were outdated.
When Beatty brought the new books, she watched as excited children selected a book for themselves. "We work with these kids every day," she said. "I know some of their predicaments."
And yet, even she was surprised to hear remarks such as, "This is the first book I've ever had."
"And the first kids to come through were third-graders," Morrison-Jackson said.
Books purchased through the Get LIT Kentucky online drive will be distributed to schools in Lexington, Louisville and Hazard, so far, who have submitted requests. Distribution should be before the end of the school year.
If the book drive doesn't work out as well as he had envisioned, Beatty said he will try something else.
"This idea is validated by the people who have donated," he said. "My reach is only so far. I have to find ways of letting people outside my circle know that we are doing this."
Beatty wants to give every child a book to take home over the summer when educational gains are far too often lost. But he also noted more programs will have to be devised to make parents and guardians aware of how important it is to read to children and to provide those children with more material and different types of reading materials to keep them interested and engaged.
"I'm not here to get credit," he said. "I just want to get the job done. I'm not walking away."