By LOIS KINDLE
Last summer, when Suzi Bredbenner attended the Kiwanis International Convention in Minneapolis, she built a Little Free Library as part of a service project.
The president-elect of the Kiwanis Club of Southshore was so impressed with the concept, she decided to bring the idea back home. Since the club is all about helping kids, especially when it comes to literacy, Bredbenner applied for a grant from the Little Free Library Impact Program.
Criteria for the grant include living in a rural community and experiencing disadvantages to accessing books. As a recipient, the club had to agree to provide opportunities for providing books, improving literacy skills and connecting neighbors.
“Through the application process, we selected Ruskin Memorial Park to be the home for our Little Free Library,” Bredbenner said. “The location is an active community cemetery, where families frequently visit, and children often have nothing to do while they’re there.
A large number of these families live at or below the poverty level and have little access to their own books.
“Often, when someone is grieving, a book becomes a best friend,” she continued. “They tend to lose themselves in it.”
The cemetery is also frequented by local homeowners during their daily exercise.
With this in mind, the Kiwanis Club of Southshore installed Little Free Library Charter No. 171199 during its most recent cemetery cleanup last fall. Donated books were handed out to everyone in attendance – an estimated crowd of about 125 people.
“It’s already been used quite a bit,” Bredbenner said. “It’s working.”
The concept behind the Little Free Library is “take a book, leave a book” (if possible).
“We plan to include English and Spanish books for people of all ages,” Bredbenner said, adding the club will continually monitor the box and replenish it with books.
“The Little Free Library Impact Program provided an initial pack of 29 books included in its Read in Color initiative, which brings diverse books to Little Free Library book-sharing boxes around the world,” Bredbenner said. “We will distribute books that provide perspectives on racism and social justice and other marginalized voices and incorporate experiences from all identities for all readers.”
Kiwanis Club continues to receive a few books each month from Little Free Library giveaways. The community is encouraged to participate and help the club continue the Little Free Library as a lending library. Books for children and adults are welcome.
Ruskin Memorial Park will be opening its on-site offices soon for book drop-off. Until then, donations of more books than can fit in the box should be left in the gazebo.
Ruskin Memorial Park is at 204 Manatee Drive, Ruskin. For more information, email Bredbenner at email@example.com/.