Bookseller Announces Large Donation

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, Md., May 18, 2007 - Bookselling giant Barnes and Noble opened a new chapter in its history today by announcing a donation of 300,000 items to America Supports You home-front groups.

"It's such an honor for Barnes and Noble to provide books, games, and toys to members of the military community as a way to say thank you for all their services," Marie Toulantis, chief executive officer of, said at a news conference during the Joint Services Open House here. "We're very thankful to ... all those involved in the America Supports You program for helping us get our gift to military members."

The donation totaled $3.4 million and has benefited nine America Supports You home-front groups and military-affiliated nonprofit organizations.

America Supports You is a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad.

The journey that actually moved about 22 tractor-trailer loads of goods from Barnes and Noble to the various groups wouldn't have happened without the network America Supports You has established, said Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense for internal communication and public liaison, the architect of the America Supports You program.

In fact, the company started out with an "angel" on its shoulder.

Former Marine Angel Carrion Jr. was working at Barnes and Noble's Memphis warehouse when the decision was made to close the facility. Typically, the merchandise would be donated to local charities, Toulantis said.

But Carrion had a twist on that idea.

Stops at the Indianapolis airport USO lounge had left him with fond memories, so he contacted Marie Spinoza, director of fund raising for the USO of Indiana.

"I was amazed at what he had," she said in an earlier phone interview. "It was a very generous donation."

Knowing her organization couldn't handle such a large donation, she contacted Frankie Mayo, the founder of Operation AC, another America Supports You group. The Delaware-based home-front member in turn reached out to the America Supports You team for help in sharing the bounty with other home-front groups.

"I'm so proud to be a member of the ASY organization," Mayo said. "I can't tell you enough how important it is to have a hub for all the organizations out there like mine that are spokes out there."

That "hub" reached out to one of its corporate supporters, Y3K Grafix, for help in shipping the donations. The company provides America Supports You graphics to turn donated space on the sides of tractor-trailers into moving billboards.

"When I received the initial call, I said, 'Absolutely. We can get it done,'" Tony Rosenbaum, vice president of Y3K Grafix, and a former Marine, said. "Then it kind of manifested into a monster."

That monster was tamed when Rosenbaum contacted one of his strategic partners, Penske Logistics. The trucking company not only agreed to initially move the donation out of the closing warehouse on short notice, but also collected it from its temporary storage at the Memphis Tennessee Air National Guard base.

The trucking company also has been instrumental in getting shipments of donations to Operation AC, Operation Shoebox in Florida, Adopt-a-Chaplain in California, the USO of Indiana and several other nonprofit organizations across the country.

The whole process was a perfect snapshot of what the America Supports You program is all about, Barber said.

"It's about helping companies and organizations find ways to connect to support our military members and their families," she said. "What's great is all of the people that came together to make this work."

The fluidity and speed with which the America Supports You program worked to make the Barnes and Noble donation a success did not go unnoticed by the world's largest bookseller.

"All of us at Barnes and Noble have been extremely impressed with the ability of ASY to actually move the merchandise so quickly and to get it out to the troops and other nonprofit groups," Toulantis said. "As a result of our very positive experience with America Supports You, we're proud to announce that we're joining the America Supports You team."

As one of its first acts as an official America Supports You corporate supporter, the company has established a special Web site. Five percent of every sale made through the Web site will be donated to America Supports You home-front groups.

"Thank you to Barnes and Noble for the most generous donation we've had to date from a company," Barber said. "We're grateful to join with you and welcome you to the America Supports You team.

"Somebody once said, 'Fame is what you get in life. True greatness is what you give,'" she added. "I'm honored to be on a platform today honored by people who are truly great."

[Web Version:]