The truck pulled up in front of The UPS Store at 8429 Lorraine Road in Lakewood Ranch, and it was time for store owner Mike Hornyak to unload boxes of books.
Hornyak opened The UPS Store at the location in January, adding to his other locations on Palmbrush Trail in Lakewood Ranch and in western Bradenton. One of The UPS Store's nationwide programs that started in 2022 was asking customers if they wanted to donate change by rounding up to the next dollar amount.
Store owners would send the donations to the national office in San Diego. When the store owners collected more than $1,500, they could request the donations be used locally in the area of their location.
Hornyak, who lives in Palmetto, had solid success with the program through the generosity of his customers, and he requested the national office purchase books to donate to the Rotary Club of Lakewood Ranch's Books for Kids program. He expected to get $1,500 worth of books.
Then he began to unload boxes, and boxes, and boxes.
In all, the national office sent him 1,707 books through its Toys for Tots Literacy Program to be donated to the Books for Kids program.
"My wife was a fourth grade teacher and now teaches for Arizona State University's online program," said Hornyak, who discovered Books for Kids through an article he read in the East County Observer. "I asked (the national office) in February for books for the grade levels through fourth grade."
Ted Lindenberg, the director of the Rotary's Books for Kids program, said he was astounded when he came to pick up Hornyak's donation.
"This completely is an unusual donation," Lindenberg said. "As many times as I have approached people, this never has happened in terms of a store making a donation. I did not know what to expect. It's an amazing feeling."
After Hornyak read about Books for Kids, he contacted Lindenberg, who explained to him how the program helps more than 4,000 kids in 12 schools in Manatee County. He told Hornyak how the program distributes more than 30,000 books a year now and has given away more than 100,000 books since 2013.
Lindenberg looked through the new books.
"The choices are wonderful," he said.
Rotary's Jim Wingert and JoAnn Shakon showed up at The UPS Store to load up the books to take to storage in Palmetto. Rotary members put a label on every book that gives parents on tips on how to help their child with their reading. The books picked up from The UPS Store were earmarked to be handed out at a monthly parent and child program at The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature in Bradenton. It runs the first Wednesday of each month, and all students ages 5-7 who live in Manatee County are eligible.
Jay Heater is the managing editor of the East County Observer. Overall, he has been in the business more than 41 years, 26 spent at the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay area as a sportswriter covering college football and basketball, boxing and horse racing.