“Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” —Psalm 82:3-4
That’s a verse that has guided Vonda Dahl’s life since she was a teen. It eventually led her to a teaching job at Mandan’s Mary Stark and Roosevelt elementary schools.
“I learned there were a number of our students living at a homeless shelter and I couldn’t stop thinking about that,” explains Vonda. “I called and asked if I could come read to kids. They said, ‘sure!’ No one was doing that.”
Vonda bought $200 worth of books and started reading. She wanted the kids to be able to keep the books they read together. Project Armchair was born.
“The name came from a mental image I had of a child in a big comfy chair, lost in a book. I know the power of a book to carry you away to another place,” says Vonda. “I was loving what was happening, the people I was meeting, the whole experience. Using my teaching education and experiences in a volunteer capacity was exciting to me. So I went to work and started talking about it and my colleagues said, ‘I want to do it!’”
Twenty teachers from Bismarck and Mandan now volunteer with Project Armchair, and teachers in Fargo and Minot have also started their own programs. More than 400 books have been given to kids through Project Armchair.