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Efforts of Elmira Kiwanis Club help stock the shelves of school libraries

The children at St. Teresa of Avila school in Elmira get their hands on the new books in the library courtesy of the Kiwanis Club of Elmira. [Aneta Rebiszewski]

With classes back in full-swing, the bookshelves in local school libraries are stocked and full of new books thanks to an annual donation made by the Kiwanis Club of Elmira.

Each school in the community has received $500 worth of books for kids to enjoy.

“Reading is very important – kids have to be read to. We wanted to support the schools,” said Ron Wagner, the secretary of the local service club.

The donation started out in 2007, with the five public schools in Elmira, and since then it has grown to providing six schools in the region with books for the shelves of their libraries.

“You can’t replace giving books to children. To watch the children receive the books it’s just fantastic,” said club president John Chapman of the program’s impact.

Each year the club hosts a variety of fundraisers throughout the year so that they can give back to the schools through the book donations. There are multiple fish fries the club host to raise money, along with having a booth at the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival that adds to their funds. These are just few of the initiatives the Kiwanis Club does to ensure they meet their yearly quota so they can give back to the neighbourhood.

“Our main thrust is supporting children in the community,” Wagner added.

As a former teacher, Wagner understands the importance of books and why they are needed in schools especially for those students who are reluctant to read. It not only helps them get hooked, Wagner says, but it allows them to transition into reading more complex stories.

Many of the schools can’t imagine not receiving the annual donation. Joe Walsh, the library technician at St. Teresa of Avila in Elmira, said he is grateful he gets to personally choose books that students will enjoy reading. There’s a certain way that books fill one’s life, he notes.

“It’s a place where you don’t need electricity, you don’t need wi-fi: you live in your imagination. You don’t need to see it on a screen, it’s a place that’s yours and yours alone.”

Each year the schools try to give back and show their appreciation to the Kiwanis Club through a variety of ways. Wagner recalls that one year they received a book back that was full of photos and thank you notes that were created by the students. Last year, one of the schools made a chart-paper-sized thank-you note.

“Over ten years, it’s a nice investment. It’s a great program,” said Walsh.

Books aren’t cheap and they don’t last long if you don’t buy good quality ones, according to Wagner. The donation goes a long way to make sure children in the community are engaged in reading and have the option to read.

“It’s important they go home even if it comes back damaged, that’s the price you pay. You can only tape them and glue them so often – they just get so defeated that the kids don’t want them anymore. But I’d rather see that, than pristine books just sitting there,” Walsh said with a smile.

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