Nelson Mandela's legacy of compassion, courage and sacrifice will live on through a St. Paul organization whose mission got a big boost thanks to the Mandela family.
Books for Africa donates pallets full of reading material to Mandela's home and however small, the organization's St. Paul warehouse is remembering him in a big way.
Over the years, Books for Africa has collected millions of page turners donated by Minnesotans to send to countries across the continent, including more than 1 million to South Africa, the country Nelson Mandela called home.
"Nelson Mandela was all about education. One of his most poignant quotes is that education is the most powerful tool to change the world," Patrick Plonski of Books for Africa said.
In addition to working with Mandela's grand-nephew to turn the iconic leader's childhood school outside Port Elizabeth into a library, the group is also sending thousands of books to stock the shelves for Nelson Mandela Library Day across South Africa.
They even sent an entire law library to Mandela's alma mater with the help of Twin Cities-based Thompson Reuters.
"Not only is it about honoring his legacy, it's about trying to replicate what he did in other places in South Africa," Plonski said.
As the official representative of South Africa in Minnesota, former Hennepin County judge Lajune Lange is on the same page about keeping Mandela's legacy alive.
"He was incredibly personable and took the time to focus on you as an individual," Lange said.
Lange met him soon after he became president and is now planning a memorial service for him in the Twin Cities as well as a permanent tribute at Augsburg College.
"Nelson Mandela was such an enormous person. He didn't just talk, he put his life on the line and spoke to others and was able to convince others that peace and reconciliation was the way," Lange said.
Though the final chapter has been written on Mandela's life story, Minnesota isn't ready to close the book on him just yet.
"A great light has gone out but there's opportunity for all of us to continue his work," Plonski said.
Plonski said he is also taking a group of students from the University of Minnesota to study abroad in South Africa next month. They'll deliver books for Nelson Mandela Library Day in South Africa next year.
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