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Search The Fig Tree's stories of people who make a difference:

Jingle Books collection seeks 4,000 books

By Kaye Hult

Dave Eubanks and Greta Gissel, Jingle Books
Dave Eubanks and Greta Gissel wear hats to convey the spirit.

Sharing a passion to make sure children learn how to read before they leave the third grade, Greta Gissel and Dave Eubanks recently instituted a book drive they call “Jingle Books.” 

They plan to collect donations of 3,000 to 4,000 gently used and new books appropriate for reading by kindergarten through third grade children. 

With a crew of volunteers, they will sort books and distribute them to children throughout the Coeur d’Alene school district before the holiday break.

Volunteers have set out collection boxes in Coeur d’Alene, Dalton Gardens and Hayden. 

Boxes are at schools, libraries, bookstores, businesses, the North Idaho College student union, high school clubs and dances.

Those who prefer can donate financially to the school district to purchase additional books.

Volunteers will begin collecting the boxes on Dec. 11.  They will sort through the books the following weekend to make sure they are age-appropriate.  Then they will distribute the books to elementary schools, beginning with those that have the greatest need—Borah, Fernan, Bryan and Winton.  Children can choose a book in a book fair at school from Dec. 15 to 18.

They hope that all K-3 children in the district will receive at least one book this season, either through Jingle Books or from their families.

Dave said the Coeur d’Alene school district is the third largest in the state.  Even so, said this teacher of 43 years and current school board member, “the lack of opportunity for students is staggering.”

Many students live with constant toxic stress that compromises their ability to learn, he said.

Greta added that 44 per cent of the school district live in poverty.  Dave said this is not only in downtown Coeur d’Alene, but also in new tract homes.

“Children must be proficient in reading by the third grade,” said Greta.  “They spend these early years learning to read.  From fourth grade on, they are expected to read to learn.  By encouraging children’s reading ability, we can change their economic destiny.” 

She said that many people in jails have only a fifth grade reading level.

Greta learned to offer community service from her parents, Norm and Diana Gissel. 

Her father served on the library board for 12 years and was instrumental in moving the Coeur d’Alene Library from 7th St. to Harrison.  When the new building was constructed, he made sure the below-ground children’s section was accessible by a ramp.

Norm and Diana, who were also part of the beginning of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, stay active with that group.

Norm served on the North Idaho College board of trustees, so he could hand Greta her associate of arts degree when she graduated.  She later earned a degree in elementary education from the University of Idaho.

Greta quoted a line her father said in the movie, “The Color of Conscience”: “The opportunity to live a purposeful life is a beautiful thing.”

Her mother, a photographer and artist, was born in Palestine and has lived in Santiago, Chile, Mexico and Moscow, Idaho.

Greta was born in Coeur d’Alene.  Her parents taught her that she has “a moral obligation to serve the community.” 

Eating Arabic food during her childhood fostered her love for food, travel and culture.

After her studies, Greta moved to Albuquerque, N.M.  She then taught for two and a half years in Japan.  She lived in the San Francisco Bay area and Seattle before returning to Coeur d’Alene about two years ago.

She was a stay-at-home mother to daughter Isabelle until a year ago, when she developed and directed KIDS Camp, where she helped campers develop knowledge, independence, direction and success by improving their reading skills.

Her goal is to inspire children to read.

Greta works in an after-school program for children in the first through fifth grades with Community Development Affiliates for Kids, a school district grant-driven program advocating education.  Students come from Atlas, Borah, and Fernan schools.  The program helps them with tutoring and homework, and has motivational speakers.

Along with her mother and father, she works with the Kootenai County Task Force for Human Relations.  She also does anti-bullying training at schools.

In one anti-bullying exercise, she has participants write where family members are from, and whether there are any gay, lesbian, bisexual or transvestite members, different ethnicities or mental disabilities in their families. 

“It’s incredible how many ethnicities exist in this community,” she said.  “You just can’t see it.”

Dave, who grew up in California, said that because he is grateful for his upbringing in a stable Christian home, he seeks to share the love he experienced with others, especially by being there for children.

He received a bachelor’s degree in history in 1968 from the University of California in Los Angeles and a master’s in history in 1992 from California State University at Northridge.  In 43 years as a teacher, he has taught every grade but fourth and has coached basketball.

“I could teach for 43 years because I moved around,” he said.  “I didn’t want to be a detriment to children.  When I knew what I was teaching in my sleep, I had to move on or become stale.”

Dave moved to South Africa for three years to write a book about apartheid.  He married instead of writing the book.  He has 10 children, including five who are adopted and have Down syndrome.  He has a lifetime commitment to them.  He also has seven grandchildren.

The last 15 of the 18 years he has lived here, he taught at Lakes Middle School.  He also taught local history.

After he had a heart transplant, he began to “ramp it up and do even more for children.

He is involved with Panhandle Kiwanis, which helps children.  He is also on the Museum of North Idaho board. 

His signs when he campaigned  for the Coeur d’Alene school board to help children simply had his name and “for the kids.”

“North Idaho is changing.  It may not be visible, but when people are riled enough to vote, every time lately, conservatives have lost,” he said.

Both Dave and Greta celebrate the ways the Coeur d’Alene community gives.

“Volunteering for a year, I have met hundreds of people who give to this community in one way or another,” Greta said.

“It’s amazing how we can have such a partisan divide, yet when given a project that depends on generosity, people will come together,” Dave said.

Both have high hopes for the success of the first Jingle Books campaign.

For more information, contact Greta at 208-819-8345 or, or contact Dave at 208-676-1084 or

Copyright © December 2014 - The Fig Tree