Darien Book Aid volunteers gathered recently for their holiday party in Bates-Scofield House Museum in Darien. Volunteers from all Fairfield County celebrated holidays and one more year of bringing peace to the world through the free distribution of books.

Rick Littlefield, president of the organization, delivered a tribute to Betty Lamont in presence of Town Historian Marian Castell.

"At this season of compassion and generosity I think it appropriate to consider how compassion and generosity led to the formation of Darien Book Aid Plan in 1949 when Europe was reeling from the devastation caused by World War II.

During those dark days of the late 1940s, Soviet Communist Russia threatened Europe and had blockaded West Berlin. It was then that Darien resident Elizabeth (Betty) Lamont, had a vision of sending books and magazines for general circulation among the European civilian population to counter Communism. Lamont finally realized her dream in 1949 when her husband, Gordon Lamont, and Connecticut Congressman John Davis Lodge contacted Gen. Lucius D. Clay, the military governor of Germany, to facilitate book shipments to Germany.

Clay directed efforts to solve vital questions regarding food, housing, health, government, currency, industry, religion, restoring wartime plunder, refugees and denazification.

When sporadic harassment of West Berlin began in 1949, Clay ordered the Berlin airlift to begin.

This spirit regarding the ability to keep Berlin supplied was also transferred to the many Allied military men who airlifted many supplies for the starving Berliners of those years. It also affected mechanics and support personnel who serviced C-47s and C-54s that were work horses of the Berlin airlift. This ability to deliver also `affected' those U.S. citizens, stateside, who collected supplies within their own communities and had those necessities flown across the Big Pond to Berlin, according to Clay's biography. Darien Book Aid Plan, whose first shipments went to Germany and Austria in 1949, was one of the early American citizen volunteer organizations. At the U.S. Summit And Initiative For Global Citizen Diplomacy held in Washington, D.C., last November, Darien Book Aid was recognized as a "legacy organization that helped launch the entire movement of citizen engagement in International relations a half-century ago."

Book Aid's mission no longer needs to fight Communism. Now, it is to improve literacy and education in more than sixty countries, and at home.

Book Aid Plan volunteers shared the history of the organization as well as to visit the Bates-Scofield House and the current exhibition "The Ladies of Prospect Avenue 1867-1900," guided by Enid Oresman, Darien Historical Society.

Last year Darien Book Aid shipped more than 32,000 pounds of books to schools and institutions in more than 60 countries, including the United States.

To learn more about Darien history, visit http://historical.darien.org.

To learn more about Book Aid Plan, www.darienbookaid.org

Darien Book Aid Plan is an all-volunteer not-for-profit organization. Its goal is to build a foundation of peace, understanding and friendship through the free distribution of books worldwide.