The Appalachian Prison Book Project, conceived at West Virginia University, can continue to further its mission of reducing the number of repeat offenders in the prison system now that it is an official 501c3 organization.
The WVU community group, founded in 2004 by Katy Ryan, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of English, and several of her graduate students, recently received notification of its new standing from the IRS.
With its 501c3 status, the project is officially a tax-exempt organization and can accept tax-deductible donations. In addition, it is eligible for more grants as well as discounts on postage, a huge expense for the organization.
For funding in its first eight years in operation, the Appalachian Prison Book Project relied on non-tax-exempt contributions as well as on fund-raiserswhich it will continue to holdincluding musical performances, readings, and carnivals. In addition, the project received four pubic service grants from the WVU Faculty Senate.
Becoming a 501c3 organization required hard work and an in-depth investigation into the laws governing nonprofits, Ryan noted. The organization benefitted from help across WVU in its successful effort to become a 501c3.
“Many people made this happen,” Ryan said. “Last summer, Appalachian Prison Book Project graduate student interns James Holsinger and Dominique Bruno began the long process by preparing paperwork. They were diligent, thorough, and most importantly, undaunted by voluminous IRS instructions.”
Even after their internships had ended, Holsinger and Bruno continued to assist with the process.
“I would never have taken this on without them,” said Ryan.
The WVU Humanities Summer Internship provided funding for Holsinger’s and Bruno’s work at the project.
L.G. Corder, a student with the WVU College of Law Entrepreneurship Law Clinic, worked with the organization throughout the school year to meet requirements for filing. In addition, he provided legal assistance on such issues as securing fee-waivers for the project, filing state and federal paperwork, and helping rework its organizational structure.
Trey Wertz, a corporate accountant with WVU Tax Services, provided the Appalachian Prison Book Project with critical financial advice. WVU graduate Angie Iafrate handles the bulk of the organization’s online presence, and WVU Teaching Assistant Professor of English Elizabeth Juckett responds to emails at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ryan also gave credit to the group’s Board of Directors, most of whom have ties to WVU: Elizabeth Juckett, Mark Brazaitis, Nancy Key, Bob Roberts, Olga Gonzalez, Trey Wertz, Dominique Bruno, Mike Buso, Harrison Case, Bridget Ferris, Jennifer Powell, Harrison Case, and Eric Hopkins.
Essential to the group’s success, Ryan said, has been the “beautiful office space” on the second floor of the Aull Center, a part of the Morgantown Public Library.
The Appalachian Prison Book Project sends free books to women and men who are imprisoned in the Appalachian region, including West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Studies have shown that recidivism rates go down when prisoners have access to educational programs, and the project considers itself connected to this larger goal. To date, the Appalachian Prison Book Project has mailed out more than 9,000 books to prisoners in Appalachia.
Contributions to the organization may be mailed to: Appalachian Prison Book Project, P.O. Box 601, Morgantown, WV 26507.
Donations are also accepted online: http://aprisonbookproject.wordpress.com/donate/
For more information, contact Katy Ryan, associate professor in the Department of English, at (304) 2939729 or Kathleen.Ryan@mail.wvu.edu.
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CONTACT: Rebecca Herod, Marketing and Communications Coordinator
304-293-7405, ext. 5251, Rebecca.Herod@mail.wvu.edu