FOREST CITY | Floyd and Rene Book's family are known around Forest City for their giving.
Rene has invited people to her home when they had nowhere else to go for Thanksgiving. She has made dozens of fresh pies from the apples in their orchard for fundraisers. She has even made caramel apples to sell at football games to help raise money for new Forest City High School color guard uniforms.
“I like doing stuff like that,” Rene said as she smiled.
The family took giving to an even higher level when they chose to give up their own Christmas presents six years ago in order to help others.
Rene said their new Christmas tradition started when Angela, their youngest daughter who was in high school at the time, chose two children's names off of the local Giving Tree. Rene said they spent $150 on each child, the same amount she budgeted for Christmas gift giving.
Christmas was generally funded from the sale of their organic apples, grown in a small orchard on their acreage. After that first year of giving, Rene viewed the apple orchard in a whole new light. Each year at harvest she said she keeps back enough to make pies for her family Thanksgiving and a few fundraisers. The rest she has donated – or sold and donated the money to a charity of choice.
“We don't give gifts anymore,” Rene said. Instead, the couple helps their children Kia, Phillip and Angela, throughout the year, with school costs or paying for their car registrations. “We donate all the money from the apple tree sales. This is a decision the family has made.”
The Book family, including 10 four-legged members, all but two which were rescue animals, decided they wanted their Christmas money to go towards animals.
“You know Floyd is all about pets,” Rene said. She explained three years ago a co-worker’s cat had just given birth to two kittens and the mama cat was too sick to nurse them. “My friend couldn't afford to save her and afford to keep the kittens. We paid the vet bill to save her cat and paid to get her fixed. We brought home the two kittens. This is why we help with pets now.
“We earned close to $300 from apple sales,” Rene said, adding the money was given to the Forest City Veterinary Clinic.
The Honeycrisp apples sold for $20 a bag.
Kim Oulman, an employee at the Forest City Veterinary Clinic, helped launch this year's sale on the vet clinic's Facebook page.
She said some people made a donation but didn't want the apples so she dropped off those bags to Forest City's Neighborhood Food Bank.
The Granny Smith apples, which were never as big a seller, are also donated. For the past few years, Dusty Gearhardt, a friend and volunteer at Patriots for Pets, a pet rescue shelter in Clear Lake, has picked all the apples. The apples are made into applesauce and sold at the shelter's annual Octoberfest fundraiser.
“We'll keep doing this every year,” Rene said, with the money alternating between the Forest City Veterinary Clinic and the North Iowa Humane Society.