Inspiring Youth Through Books

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 10:02 a.m. December 11, 2014

Staff Sergeant Chuck Konkel has a close affinity for books.

A group of people, two wearing TPS uniforms
Staff Sergeant Chuck Konkel, at right, Michael Douglas, of Fleet Services, and Jennifer Branco, wearing Santa hat, with Target volunteers after packing books destined for young readers

The author of two novels,The Glorious East Wind and Evil Never Sleeps, the veteran officer firmly believes books are educational and inspiring, particularly for young people.

On December 9, Konkel received nearly 4,600 books from  First Books Canada, which provides free and low-priced educational resources to programs and schools serving children from low-income families throughout Canada and the United States.

The books will be delivered to C.W Jefferies Collegiate Institute and the various organizations in the Aboriginal community.

“The work we do with First Books is indicative of the partnerships that are real,” said Konkel, a former member of the Royal Hong Kong Police Service.  “It’s important to realize that the best way to reach the community is by measures like this.”

First Books Canada operations director Wayne Cochrane said Toronto Police is a key partner in his organization’s attempt to transform the lives of children in need and elevate the quality of education by making new, high-quality books available on an ongoing basis. 

“We are working with police services across the country and encouraging them, including Toronto Police, to utilize our resources,” he said. “Books are creative tools they can take around with them in their cruisers and possibly use to comfort someone when they are responding to a situation. They can also read for children as they do their community interaction.”

To become a registered First Books Canada member, police officers can go to

“Once they complete the online registration, they will be connected to our resources,” said Cochrane. “Each month, e-mails are sent out to book recipients with an online booklist and they will be able to submit an application detailing what they will hope to receive.” 

The link between Toronto Police and First Choice Canada was established a year ago through a strange coincidence.

Sergeant Norman Crichton was issuing a speeding ticket on Lake Shore Blvd. near Ontario Place,  when he was approached by a woman with a request to help out with the storage of some books

Jennifer Branco, the chief executive officer of the Michael “Pinball” Clemons Foundation, was in a quandary as she had skids of new books left over after making distributions to nearly 25 charities.

First Books Canada had made the donation to the foundation.

There were 21,000 books on 20 skids, which Branco had to move out of Ontario Place’s parking lot that same day.

Crichton made a few calls and was able to arrange for the skids to be transported to Traffic Services for storage. He then contacted Konkel to help find a good home for the books. 

Some of the books were distributed to Native Child & Family Service of Toronto locations in the city, the City of Toronto Family Residence Centre, Eastview School in Scarborough, the Native Women’s Resource Centre, Six Nations Youth & Family Services in Brantford and Nishnawbe Homes Toronto Police Services.

Books were also shipped to Lac La Ronge Indian Band, Witchekan Lake First Nation and Pelican Lake First Nation in Saskatchewan.

“These are brand-new books that are donated through publishers and authors and the goal is to get them into the hands of young people,” said Branco. “We are proud of our association with Toronto Police in helping to use books to open the minds of young people.”

Target Canada volunteers helped pack the books into a police vehicle for distribution. 

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