Jock Mackenzie was a teacher and school Principal in Red Deer for 31 years before he retired. He is now a freelance writer and program coordinator for YIMBY Reads, a program he created in 2013. Here is his story.

What is YIMBY? We have all heard of NIMBY – Not In My Back Yard i.e. We need a skateboard park, but NIMBY or We need a homeless shelter, but NIMBY.

Well, YIMBY is the opposite. It’s YES In My Back Yard. I think we need to pay a bit more attention to our own back yard . . . in this case, Red Deer.

YIMBY Reads says we need to improve access to books for kids in Red Deer. Through my involvement with Reading College, a summer program for local seven- and eight-year olds who struggle with reading, I came to understand that many Red Deer children do not have easy, ongoing access to books. My two kids had bookshelves filled with books. Once Jillian and Andrew had grown, the books remained – too good to discard but we had no clear ideas as to what to do with them. An idea was born.

What if we asked the students of a local school to donate gently used books for the benefit of other kids in Red Deer – YIMBY. So we did. I went to Karen Vanderwater, principal of Mattie McCullough Elementary. In January of 2013, the Mattie community brought in over 1000 books. I took them to G.H. Dawe School. Teachers used them in classroom libraries, as incentives, and as gifts. I took some to Normandeau School where they were used at a Parent Night as a giveaway for those who attended.

G.H. Dawe School responded by getting the Leadership Team under Gwen Dawes-Harker to establish a YIMBY Challenge. They collected even more books than Mattie’s original offering.

The books were collected in whatever boxes were available – Pampers boxes, liquor boxes, etc. I thought it would be nice (not necessary but nice) to have banker’s boxes. Dan Murdoch of Doormasters stepped up and donated enough to buy not only boxes but YIMBY labels.

Carrie Waldo, art teacher at Hunting Hills High School, offered her services and those of her students to paint the boxes. Wow! The results were amazing.

In the last several years, over 10,000 books have been re-distributed. Generally, schools collect them and I pick them up and take them where they’re needed. Many go to other schools, some go to the Christmas Bureau or to social service agencies and, recently, to the Food Bank.

In December of 2015, I organized a Books for Kids Night at a Red Deer Rebels game. Working with Scott Subaru, we collected about 1,000 books and over $300 in donations. Students from Reading College, the Christmas Bureau and YIMBY were the beneficiaries.

With continued support, YIMBY will continue to grow and young Red Deerians will have greater access to books.