When the Great Bend Public Library learned it was one of six community organizations to receive annual support from the Don and Phyllis Whelan Endowment Fund, the Board of Trustees began exploring ideas to carry out the wishes of the Whelans. This month, board members made plans to begin spending the first installment of $6,769, presented in March by the Golden Belt Community Foundation.
Representatives from the United Way of Central Kansas, Gaila Demel, Mark Mingenback and Regan Reif, were invited to make a presentation about the Dolly Parton Imagination Library at the July 17 library board meeting. The program provides a free book each month to any registered child from birth to age 5 within the designated zip code. Families are required to come to their local library and register, and when they do they become familiar with the services provided by their library, and can sign up for library cards. Once registered, the free book arrives in the mail each month, addressed to the child.
Reif shared a startling piece of information that had board members shaking their heads. She has met with preschool and kindergarten teachers who report some of the children entering their schools have never been read to by their parents, and do not understand what a book is.
“They haven’t even felt a book. They haven’t even seen a book. They might have seen a phone book around their house, but that is. They haven’t read them or picked them up,” she said. She added that the kids gain a real sense of ownership when the books arrive each month, and when they get them, they seek out someone to read to them.
While the books are free to the children, the communities raise funds to cover the $2.10 the Dolly Parton Imagination Library assesses for each recipient, Mingenback said. The cost covers a retail-quality book and postage.
Funds have been raised to kick off the program in Great Bend this fall, he said. But funding is needed for upcoming years to ensure the program continues.
Demel has been in contact with the youth services personnel at the library about when the program will start in Great Bend. The exact date is still to be announced, but it will likely be in conjunction with a story hour.
After the presentation, board members discussed best uses of the funds. They approved a resolution to provide $1,000 from this year’s Whelan Endowment Fund disbursement to the Dolly Parton Imagination Library for Great Bend, designated to be used for 2018. They also approved a resolution allowing Director Harry Willems to spend up to $1,000 of the funds at his discretion without requiring the board’s okay. The funds come with no strings attached, so there is no deadline in which they must be spent.