Rollins senior Charles Bonker set out to increase employment opportunities for local people with special needs by creating Love Your Neighbor Books, a benefit corporation that collects book donations.
The Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Hub, aka Hub, hosted a book drive to benefit Love Your Neighbor Books as well as their partner organization, Opportunity, Community, Ability (OCA). By the end of October, they had raised over 500 books.
OCA is a non-profit organization in the Orlando area that supports individuals with disabilities and other health conditions. It does this by implementing programs such as providing employment opportunities to individuals on the autism spectrum.
The books that are donated to the drive are delivered to OCA. The organization’s employees then enter each book’s information, including condition, author, and price, into an Amazon seller database. The books remain posted until they are purchased through Amazon. From there, they are packaged and delivered to the post office.
“Unemployment is high for people with disabilities, and Love Your Neighbor Books will help bring meaningful work to special people in our community,” said Bonker.
Bonker has been doing this kind of work since high school. He started his first business, Cranberry Lake Technologies, when he lived in New Jersey.
The business also sold used books on Amazon. From the beginning, the purpose of the business has always been to employ individuals with disabilities.
After graduating high school, Bonker decided to attend Rollins to study social entrepreneurship and start a new branch of his business.
Rollins’ social entrepreneurship major provides students like Bonker with the tools and information they need to create and expand their own businesses. From setting up benefit corporations and structuring sustainable business models to partnering with the Hub, the major prepares students for entering the business world.
The Hub encourages individuals within the community to share their ideas because it is “a creative space on campus where we provide tools and resources to support addressing local and global social issues,” stated their Rollins webpage.
When approached by Bonker, the Hub gladly agreed to work with him to engage students in the book drive.
“For me it was not only an opportunity to engage students in donating books, which we have been able to successfully do through involving Greek life and other students on campus, but I️ also felt that there was a greater opportunity to change the false perceptions of autism,” said Ryan Abronski (‘20), ambassador coordinator for the Hub.
Bonker recently succeeded this goal by launching Love Your Neighbor Books, which will continue to promote autism awareness and partner with non-profit organizations, such as OCA.
When Bonker graduates, he plans to focus on growing his business.