Pacific Beach’s modern Mary Poppins trades cans for books to help children

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Self-described “modern-day Mary Poppins,” Pacific Beach resident Trisha Goolsby arrives not with an umbrella, but with a bag of recycled cans.

And in her version of Poppins magic, she turns recycled products into children’s books.

It’s all part of his unique effort – the Cans4Books community initiative – to provide as many free books as possible to young people in the area.

Pacific Beach resident Trisha Goolsby holding Rupert’s stuffed monkey, one of Cans4Books’ mascots.

(Elisabeth Marie Himchak)

Goolsby said she was inspired to launch the initiative during the pandemic.

“I took unemployment for a month thinking the lockdown would be over soon,” said Goolsby, a homeschooling consultant. “My roommate drank a lot of sparkling water during this time and it sparked an idea.”

When one of her neighbors needed help paying her bills, several of the surrounding homes pitched in with their CRV recycling items, including her roommate’s water bottles. The money raised was enough to cover the neighbour’s bills.

So, at the end of 2020, Goolsby decided to aim a little bigger with another recycling goal.

“I thought I was just going to try and get everyone’s cans. I asked my neighbors and the military village to donate and every day I ended up picking up recycling,” she said.

An informative display on how recycling cans and plastic bottles can result in free books for children.

An informative display on how recycling cans and plastic bottles can result in free books for children.

(Elisabeth Marie Himchak)

At the end of December 2020, she said Cans4Books had recovered 3,599 aluminum cans, 823 plastic bottles and 252 glass bottles.

With the money received from recycling efforts, she purchased and donated over 200 children’s books.

Goolsby said recycling continues when she buys the books.

“I know savings are a wonderful resource; I can get a paperback for 59 cents and a hardback for a dollar at the Goodwill store, plus I get a teacher discount,” she said.

Goolsby said that on average, with a dozen cans she could buy a used paperback; with 20 cans she can buy a used hardback book for $1 and with the money from 300 recycled cans she can buy a brand new book for $15.

She makes sure the whole community is represented in her purchases and seeks out local authors of children’s books and books in different languages.

“I realized it was totally doable. And it was so simplistic – you didn’t even have to have contact with anyone,” she said. Recycling also creates good, lasting habits that will help our young people as they age.”

She said the recycling program is also another way to reallocate government funding, so money earned from recycling efforts goes back into the community.

Someone recycles a plastic water bottle at the Cans4Books exhibit during CicloSDias in Pacific Beach.

Someone recycles a plastic water bottle at the Cans4Books exhibit during CicloSDias in Pacific Beach.

(Elisabeth Marie Himchak)

As news of her organization spread through Pacific Beach and beyond, Goolsby said she ended up spending a lot of time driving.

“In the beginning, I sometimes had to pick up eight to ten recycling bags at a time. Since I only have a small car, I would have to hire a big truck to carry the bigger loads,” she explained.

This problem was solved with the help of several community businesses.

Drop-off locations in Pacific Beach include Randal’s Sandals at 1033 Barnett Dr. and Cancer Books Headquarters at 4057 Promontory St.

In addition to PB, Cans4Books now includes the neighborhoods of North Park, South Park, Ocean Beach, Point Loma, University City and The Village at NTC.

Goolsby has partnered with even more local organizations, such as Shore Buddies, a San Diego-based organization that makes stuffed animals from recycled plastic bottles and also donates books.

She also receives books from other members of the Pacific Beach Woman’s Club and the Pacific Beach Town Council.

“At the end of last year we received and donated over 3,000 books,” she said. “So far this year, we have already donated over 4,000 books.”

Carol Posey of Point Loma is just one of many who appreciate Goolsby’s efforts.

“It works wonders because we can donate our recycling and we don’t have to go anywhere to do it,” Posey said. “It also helps kids in the community with books, so it’s a win-win.

“Trisha is so enthusiastic and passionate about her cause; she really wants to help the community and the kids,” Posey added.

Stuffed monkey RJ with some of the children's books Tricia Goolsby bought by recycling cans and plastic bottles.

Stuffed monkey RJ with some of the children’s books Tricia Goolsby bought with proceeds from recycling cans and plastic bottles.

(Elisabeth Marie Himchak)

Husband and wife Rich Soublet and Lindsay Mineo of North Park also save their recyclables for the Goolsby cause.

“Trisha was always very enthusiastic and encouraged us to get others in our building to donate,” Mineo said. “She usually sends us a group text and collects it from whoever has it on loan. She makes it very easy, very convenient and I know it’s for a good cause.

As part of its recycling efforts, Goolsby teams up with BluLite Bonfires and PerfectFirst Beach Cleanups, meeting on the first and third Saturday of every month.

And like many of its other recycling efforts, it has expanded its own targets for cleanups.

“We only do beach cleanups for about an hour and a half at a time, so I wondered how we could continue to provide these resources to the community,” she said. “So I commit to being on the PB Boardwalk every Sunday from 9am to 2pm”

So far, Goolsby said she’s been on the walk several weekends in a row, which has resulted in more than 70 children’s books being donated and more recycling bags being filled.

“I can extend my hours,” Goolsby said. “By creating a habitual space, it’s easy for people to grab a bag and fill it. We have a reusable glove program, free bags and teach the community how to work together. All the little pieces come together to create a much bigger impact.

In its efforts to involve children in recycling efforts, Goolsby can also be found with many of its small charges participating in street cleaning through Street Stewards, an organization in which individuals adopt neighborhood blocks and keep clean of garbage on a weekly basis.

And just as Mary Poppins sings, “In every job that needs doing, there’s an element of fun,” Goolsby takes a few tiny friends along for the beach and street cleanup. Rupert and RJ (short for Rupert Jr.) are two stuffed monkeys. Given that her customers’ children are all familiar with the pair of stuffed creatures, it’s no surprise that they’ve been an integral part of her recycling efforts.

“Rupert is all about reading and kindness,” she said. “All the kids know him. RJ stands for community and fundraising.

Similar to small free libraries, where residents set up book-sharing boxes in their homes that are available anytime, Goolsby said she hopes to place Rupert’s Bench libraries in playgrounds all around the area.

The benches will be made from recycled plastic and beach scraps, and will feature children’s shelves on the side.

Trisha Goolsby speaks with passers-by on the Pacific Beach boardwalk about her Cans4Books community initiative.

Trisha Goolsby speaks with passers-by on the Pacific Beach boardwalk about her Cans4Books community initiative.

(Blair Kirby)

Goolsby herself has a small free library outside her home and has created three this year through Cans4Books. But she explained that many libraries are often filled with books for adults. She plans to keep her bench bookcases stocked with children’s books.

There is another difference between its benches and the Free Little Libraries.

“Because we use recycling, I don’t expect people to trade the books,” she said. “I want the children to be able to get the books and keep them. With this concept, there will never be books distributed in the community.

Goolsby’s interest in expanding reading opportunities for children is linked to his career. In August 2020, she founded Stellar At-Home Educational Consultants, in which she provides educational services and counseling in children’s homes. Its stated goal is to help young children “be the best they can be”.

Goolsby said she is passionate about providing developmentally appropriate education to her young charges. Ensuring children have access to plenty of children’s books is one of her core beliefs.

“The first five years of their life, children are very impressionable; by providing them with positive skills, they also have a solid foundation that will only get stronger as they get older,” she said.

Goolsby holds a master’s degree in education with a concentration in early childhood and early childhood special education from Radford University in Virginia. Early childhood refers to pre-kindergarten through third grade. Early childhood special education extends up to the age of 5.

“Ever since I was little, I always wanted to be a teacher,” she says. “Once I moved into infancy, however, I fell in love.”

Goolsby said her 10 years as a nanny and almost as many as kindergarten teachers taught her the importance of teaching children not just in a school setting, but in their home environment.

Joey and Amanda Ferrante agree. Goolsby has been working with their older children, Arabella, 5, and Jojo, 3, from their Point Loma home for about two years. Louie, 9 months, is a recent addition to the family.

“From my perspective, she taught them that every moment in life is a moment you can take to learn and share kindness with everyone,” Amanda Ferrante said.

“She taught me the importance of recycling and keeping the earth healthy,” said Arabella Ferrante.

The scale of Goolsby’s recycling efforts and her belief in the power of children’s books are not for the faint-hearted.

It must be part of the magic of Mary Poppins allowing Goolsby to accomplish so much. Her days are usually busy picking up recycling from various locations, bringing it to the CRV recycling center, handing out books, running her consulting business, attending local events and raising awareness of the Cans4Books community initiative. .

“It’s not for everyone, but I love it, I get so much joy out of it,” Goolsby said.

Goolsby can be contacted via their website linqapp.com/cans4books or via Facebook at facebook.com/groups/cans4books.

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