AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- On the evening of Nov. 24, Ashlee Nicole Sharer sat by her television as fires erupted on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri.
The Medical College of Georgia student questioned actions and prayed for victims, all while thinking to herself: “What can I do to help?”
Three weeks after the grand jury indictment verdict, Sharer created a Ferguson wish list on BarnesAndNoble.com, urging classmates to purchase a book for the Ferguson Municipal Public Library.
Most of the suggested books were for children, ranging from The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes to A Song for Bijou by Josh Farrar.
When a book was purchased, it was shipped to the library, with the option of adding a personal inscription.
Sharer’s call-to-help came the same week as 60 Medical College of Georgia students lay silently for 15 minutes outside a building at Georgia Regents University to protest violence and racism around the country. The die-in protest was part of a nationwide demonstration by medical students, many of them using the social media hashtag whitecoats4blacklives.
“While there were differing opinions regarding our class’ white coat die-in and the circumstances precipitating it, one thing we all agreed on was that the degree of frank destruction in Ferguson was staggering,” Sharer said. “Watching a city be destroyed was heartbreaking and I knew our class could do something meaningful for the people of Ferguson.”
Since a grand jury voted not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown, many Ferguson residents have turned to the library as a safe haven, according to a recent article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Ashley C. Ford, who lives in Brooklyn, New York, and works for BuzzFeed, said a colleague was in Ferguson and mentioned that the library was open and welcoming.
Some citizens “felt it was the one consistent place they could count on,” Ford told the Post-Dispatch.
When Sharer heard about the library’s willingness to assist, the second-year medical student searched the library online and ended up on their Twitter account, which she says “mimicked the sentiment of the stronghold the library had been for the Ferguson community.”
Sharer reached out to the Ferguson Municipal librarian, who responded with a list of books they hoped to add to their collection.
“We compiled a list of titles and distributed them to our class,” Sharer said.
Her classmates responded.
Twelve hours after Sharer’s list was created, half the books were purchased, and all 18 were bought in less than a week.
“It’s one thing to talk about making a difference, but it’s another thing to actually make one,” said Katherine Menezes, MCG Class of 2017 president. “What I love about our class is that we have a lot of do-ers. After Ashlee Nicole mentioned the idea, it didn’t take long for our class to respond and complete the wish list.”
Second-year medical student Margaret Story bought The Day the Crayons Quit last week, and two additional books Monday morning with inscriptions to honor an uncle who recently passed away in Savannah.
“When I was growing up, I absolutely loved reading children’s books,” Story said. “And with Christmas around the corner, it’s comforting to know that children in Ferguson will have a safe haven with new books, new characters and new adventures.”
Since the indictment verdict, Ferguson Municipal Public Library has received more than $400,000 in donations, as well as hundreds of books.
The amount of monetary donations has eclipsed the library’s approximated annual budget, according to Post-Dispatch reporter Jane Henderson.
People can donate to the Ferguson Public Library through its homepage, www.ferguson.lib.mo.us.