A photo of Sunshine Ray Sunshine Ray has made it her mission to get as many books as possible out to children in the Inland Empire. While student teaching, Ray, a Child Development-Early Childhood Intervention major at San Bernardino Valley College, found that many of the kids in the class did not have access to books, and she decided to fix that.

"I started an Amazon list and shared it on social media," Ray said. "After that, people started asking me if I would take used books, and of course the answer was yes. After two weeks of asking friends, family, neighbors, and an even bigger non-profit, The Esperanza Project, we soon had 1,000 books, and Nanny's Book Garden was born in the living room of our tiny little house."

Through Nanny's Book Garden — named in honor of her late mother, Annis "Nanny" Ray — Ray distributes books to elementary school kids in the San Bernardino area. Her daughter, son, and fiancé help collect and sanitize the books, and when she is ready to give them away, Ray picks a time and place — usually a park — and shares all the details with teachers and on social media. During events, she ensures that everyone remains masked and social distanced for safety.

"It is important to give back to our community because we are the ones that live here," Ray said. "We are the ones that can make it better and make positive changes so our residents feel safer and feel proud of where they live. I have only lived in San Bernardino only four short years, but I have a responsibility to leave things better than I found them and that is why it is important that I actively participate in making positive changes here."

For anyone interested in getting involved in volunteering, Ray suggests they find something they are passionate about, and go from there.

"If you love pets, check on your senior neighbors and offer to walk their dogs," she said. "If you love the beach, go and pick up trash and help keep the beaches clean. Whatever it is you choose to do will be awesome. You never know how your small act of kindness will change someone's day or maybe even your life. You don't have to spend a fortune, just give your time and your love — you would be amazed at how far those two things will take you."

Becoming involved in the Child Development Department has "changed my life," Ray said, and she credits Professors Kellie Barnett, Denise Knight, Danya Sanders, and Kathryn Adams with helping her grow as a person. "I will always be forever grateful to them and the program at SBVC," she declared.

Ray is also appreciative of the support she has received from her children, fiancé, and family, saying that without them, Nanny's Book Garden wouldn't be able to help so many people. 

"There is nothing better than seeing a child's face light up when they are listening to or reading a book," she said. "As a future educator, I want to thank everyone that makes that possible."