GREENFIELD — Organizers of an initiative that puts books in the hands of children across Hancock County are gearing up for a week of giving they hope will jump-start fundraising efforts for the literacy program.
During National Week of Philanthropy from Nov. 9 to 13, every dollar donated to support the local Imagination Library, which mails out free books each month to local families, will be matched with 50 cents by the Hancock County Community Foundation through a $100,000 Lilly Endowment grant.
The Hancock County Public Library and Hancock County Community Foundation recently teamed up to organize a local Imagination Library, an early literacy program started by Dolly Parton that is open to all families, regardless of income.
To help fund the project, the community foundation is encouraging residents to donate during the second week of November as part of a local campaign called the Imagination Library Express, foundation president Mary Gibble said.
The Imagination Library will cost an estimated $58,000 each year if 60 percent of the county’s preschool-age children sign up, organizers said.
The foundation is hoping to bring in $200,000 in donations from the community during National Week of Philanthropy in order to have $300,000 to kick off Imagination Library on Jan. 1. That pool of funding would be used to operate the program, with the goal that more students will enter preschool with a budding love for books and will be better prepared to read once they enter kindergarten, Gibble said.
“It will be really cool for those kindergartners to get to school and already have read all the same books,” she said.
In 1995, The Dollywood Foundation launched the first Dolly Parton Imagination Library in Tennessee. Since then, the program has grown to encompass communities across the North America, the United Kingdom and Australia, according to the organization’s website.
The access to books from children’s earliest days better prepares them to read once they reach school age, organizers said.
Talks of staring an Imagination Library in Hancock County began this year. The Hancock County Community Foundation stepped in to serve as the funding arm of the program, while the Hancock County Public Library took on an administrative role dedicated to enrolling families into the Imagination Library and ordering the books to be mailed, library director Dave Gray said.
Both Gray and Gibble say the Imagination Library is a way for their organizations to take a more active role in the education of Hancock County’s youngest residents.
The initiative will be added to a vast array of programs the library already offers to families with preschoolers, Gray said. But while those families are borrowing books from the library, Imagination Library will help them build a library at home, he said.
The community foundation has always supported K-12 education through the administration of scholarships and grants, Gibble said. Imagination Library will allow the foundation to expand its giving, she said.
“We feel we can make an impact K-12 and beyond,” she said.
But Imagination Library isn’t only for children; adults can gain from it as well, said Steve Burt, a former principal at Weston Elementary School in Greenfield.
Burt, a member of the steering committee created to manage the Imagination Library, is retired and said he is spending much more time being a grandpa. Reading with his grandchildren is a beloved pastime for Burt, who appreciates the Imagination Library’s efforts to equip parents with the tools to enhance their children’s education.
“That’s more books to read at naptime or bedtime,” he said. “If that (love for reading) is engraved early on, they’ll be better off.”
Donations during the Imagination Library Express campaign can be made online at givehcgrowhc.org or mailed to 312 E. Main St., Greenfield. The community foundation has arranged to be open special hours during the fundraiser for in-person donations. Gifts also can be given to representatives at any library location during regular business hours.
Gifts to the Imagination Library Express campaign, held Nov. 9 to Nov. 13, may be made several ways:
1. Online at giveHCgrowHC.org
2. Mailed to the Hancock County Community Foundation, 312 E. Main St., Greenfield, 46140. Must be postmarked between Nov. 9 and Nov. 13.
3. At any library location during regular business hours, or at the Hancock County Community Foundation during the following hours:
- 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 9
- 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 10
- 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 11
- 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 12
- 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 13
Donation can be made in form of cash, credit cards or checks. Checks should be made payable to HCCF: Imagination Library Fund.