“Book Trees” Installed at Barbara Hicks Park in Southbridge
Caesar Rodney Rotary Club partners with the City and the community to put books into the hands of young people
Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki and Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Kelley on Saturday joined Matthew McMenamy, president of the Caesar Rodney Rotary Club, to commemorate the installation of two “Book Trees” in Barbara Hicks Park, at Bradford and B Streets in the Southbridge section of the city. Also present were City Council President Dr. Hanifa Shabazz, Southbridge Civic Association president Marie Reed, and Barbara Hicks.
The book trees, modeled after the book-sharing boxes popularized by the Little Free Library organization, were donated by the Rotary Club and installed by Parks and Recreation workers. The boxes will be stocked and maintained by the Rotary Club with help from community partners such as the Neighborhood House.
“We are grateful to our friends at the Caesar Rodney Rotary Club for focusing their attention and resources on our at-risk young people,” said Mayor Purzycki. “By helping to put books out here in the community, Rotary members are providing our young people with a golden opportunity to lose themselves in a world of stories and thereby fostering a lifelong love of reading.”
The Mayor went on to cite statistics published last year by Statistic Brain that showed 80% of U.S. families did not buy a book in 2017, while just 15% of U.S. inmates are literate. “The simple, inexpensive gesture of giving a child a book can pay huge dividends later in life,” Purzycki continued.
Rotary Club president McMenamy said that his organization created the Caesar Rodney Rotary Foundation in October to focus on at-risk youth. “Our newly formed Foundation is passionate about helping out at-risk youth – individuals under age 25 – in Wilmington and New Castle County, and the book trees are a great way for us to help engage these young people through literacy,” said McMenamy.
“We also want to work with members of the local community like Neighborhood House to make this free lending library a success, as well as collaborate on activities such as volunteers reading aloud to groups of children in the park,” continued McMenamy.
The two book trees, which cost the Rotary Club a few of hundred dollars to make, sit side-by-side and will contain books for both older and younger children. One of the trees is lower to the ground and thus handicapped-accessible. The initial supply of books was donated by individual Rotary members. President McMenamy said that the Rotary Club will work with Barnes & Noble at the Concord Mall to help select and screen future titles.
According to Director Kelley, these book trees will serve as a pilot project that, if successful, will be expanded to other parks across the City. “We’ll see how it goes,” said Kelley. “We think this is a great idea and are happy to work with our community partners and the Rotary Club to expand this project to all of our City parks down the road.”
The installation took place during the University of Delaware Blue Hen Leadership Program’s 7th Annual Spring Day of Service, an unrelated event which brought together university students to beautify Hicks Park between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
For more information about how you can get involved or to donate books, contact Matthew McMenamy of the Caesar Rodney Rotary Club at (302) 656-7773 (ext. 20) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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