Left: Rosemary Anderson of Brightwood runs Spring Grass Book’em, a nonprofit that sends books to prisoners.

Rosemary C. Anderson mails 100 books a month across the nation out of a friend’s family room in Bellevue. Shakespeare, Dickens, and dictionaries packaged with a note “from the outside” help to entertain and educate the inmates of the nation.

Anderson’s efforts have been recognized by UPMC, the creators of the Dignity & Respect Initiative. Anderson is the February recipient of the Dignity & Respect Champion Award. 

What began as a company wide mission to “unify under a shared belief that everyone deserves dignity and respect,” has spread nationwide. The organization now recognizes one community member a month and encompasses the entire country. 

Anderson was unaware of her nomination for the award until hearing from the program.

“I was so happy.  It’s great to get appreciation,” said Anderson.

Her organization, Spring Grass Book’em, was founded in 2010.  The group sends books and supportive letters to incarcerated people in the United States. 

Inmates simply write to Anderson and request a certain topic. Topics range from classic literature, gardening or simply ‘anything’. The most common book request from inmates: dictionaries.

“I love books. And inmates are the most grateful audience for books there is. Who else would love to have an old textbook or volume of an encyclopedia? I am happy to send them books.”

Anderson collects book donations from the community, but often goes out to thrift shops herself to buy books for the cause.

“Our fine city of Pittsburgh is fortunate to be rich in books, thanks to the colleges here and our many libraries, which sometimes donate books to us,” she said. “Occasionally, I buy books from thrift stores – now I shop for the prisoners instead of for myself, so I have all the fun of shopping and none of the clutter!”

Spring Grass Book’Em currently lacks a public space to store the books, however has found a home in an old friends living room. 

After teaming up with a local church, the group has recently been granted nonprofit status and can now apply for grants in order to fund the $3 per package rate. With 100 packages being sent out per month, Anderson believes that her organization may be “single-handedly supporting the Post Office!”

“We could do a lot more; were way behind on orders. But the prisoners understand we’re volunteers,” said Anderson.

Rosemary’s desire to begin this organization stemmed from another book project that she was volunteering for. Her movement is rooted in the idea that education is essential in the reformation process in order to have released citizens’ function well when they are back in society.

“I believe that every jail and prison should have a decent library and should also supply good dictionaries to all prisoners who want them. One woman was locked up for a whole year because her boyfriend had used her printer to make counterfeit money, and all she had to read was a Bible.”

A second inmate confessed to Anderson that the books she sent helped him maintain stability while incarcerated, estimating that they had read 200 to 300 books while behind bars. 

“The prisoners who can read or who can learn to read – they are the lucky ones, as books are about the only good thing inside bars.”

With the new nonprofit status, Anderson is hoping to obtain grants in order to expand the program, but the first order of business will be obtaining a public space. 

Donations to Spring Grass Book’Em can be made by emailing rcat32@gmail.com to arrange a pick up or delivery. 

 Karin Baker is a senior at the University of Pittsburgh and a resident of the city of Pittsburgh.