Grace Elizabeth Madriles was a beautiful, loving sixteen year old when she died in a car accident on September 21, 2002.
The Madriles family was surrounded by love and prayers as well as gifts of flowers and food. Additionally, people started giving monetary donations. The family wanted to use the funds in a manner that would honor Gracie’s spirit of love and generosity. Gracie’s mother, Paula, was a teacher at a very poor South El Paso elementary school. She spent the donated money at yard sales and thrift stores, buying books and educational materials to give to teachers.
Thus the idea for Books are Gems was born. Paula and friends formed a 501C3 non profit organization in January of 2003 and began fundraising.
Our first distributions were in the South El Paso schools of Alamo, AOY and Roosevelt, all within walking distance of the Mexican border.
Soon the books were rolling in. First the books filled up Gracie’s bedroom, then overflowed to the living and dining room, and later overfilling a friend’s garage. Soon after Mrs. Madriles and friends were forced to rent a storage unit, and then another.
In June 2004, Books Are Gems moved into the lovely Plazita Santa Fe Shopping Center. Later in January 2010 they reached their current and more centralized location 7744 North Loop Ste B (rear of Compass bldg). Thousands of children’s books are still shelved and prepared to be distributed with the help of volunteers and Books Are GEMS still try reach all children throughout the El Paso area.