Canton Residents Answer a Call to Sponsor
Little Free Libraries
In 2009, Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin, started the nonprofit Little Free Library (LFL) as a tribute to his mother, an educator who loved to read. His idea was to offer books to anyone who would like one, and to keep the libraries brimming with books from those who can donate, while the LFLs wait for their doors to be opened by curious readers. Bol’s small project would blossom into a movement that has grown to 100,000 LFLs in more than 100 countries around the world.
Three teachers from Hasty Elementary, Cristin Bell, Justine Beckebrede and Beth Cronan, approached me on April 1, to see if the city of Canton would approve the placement of two LFLs in city parks, as part of their specialist degree pursuits. City staff and council members embraced the idea. While Bell, Beckebrede and Cronan solicited book donations and funding from Hasty’s Parent Teacher Association, I wondered why the project should be limited to just two parks. After all, there are eight parks in Canton, which are visited by thousands of people monthly. I posted a call to action on the Cherokee Connect Facebook page, and, within six hours, the city had enough sponsors to put LFLs in all city parks. Many of the sponsors, such as Angela and Mark Whitaker, chose parks that had impacted them as children. All sponsors care deeply about literacy and the impact of LFL books in our parks and communities.
The libraries were constructed using kits from the nonprofit. I constructed two libraries, and the rest were assembled and, if needed, painted by sponsors. Adam Dobson and Canton city staff eagerly jumped in to help. They purchased posts and concrete for the LFLs, and placed the posts in ideal spots at each park, to allow easy access. Ribbon cuttings were scheduled for all seven parks over a two-week period, with the last one dedicated on June 22.
Thank you to the following donors:
• Etowah River Park and Burge Park: Cristin Bell, Justine Bekebrede and Beth Cronan
• Boling Park: Alison Hendrix
• Heritage Park: Ashley and Todd Dickerson
• McCanless Park: Angela and Mark Whitaker
• Harmon Field Park: Dr. Susan Buice and Becky Buice
• Cannon Park: Mike and Shelly Farrar
Canton already had one LFL, located in Brown Park, that was donated by the Rotary Club. And, because of all these giving people, residents and visitors alike now can leave a book, or pick up a book, at any of the eight Canton city parks.
– Shawn Tolan serves on Canton City Council, representing Ward 2. He is the general manager of Tolan Roofing & Construction. He and wife Shari have two children and three grandchildren.
Etowah River Park & Burge Park
Justine Bekebrede, Cristin Bell, Beth Cronan
“As teachers, we stress the importance of reading to our students. However, many families do not have books at home. We wanted to find a way for our students and families in the community to have easy access to reading materials, whether they are at school or not. Thanks to the Hasty PTA, we were able to fund two libraries that directly impact our students and their families. We are so surprised at the outpouring of support from the City Council members and the mayor. Our hope is that everyone in our community will utilize the libraries and work together to keep them stocked with books.”
“As an educator, I know that access to books and daily reading are key indicators of academic success for children. I am also a regular patron of the public library, and I think of Little Free Libraries as a way to make reading even more accessible. I chose Boling Park as the location for my LFL because of the proximity to Cherokee High School, which is where I teach. I sponsored the library in honor of my uncle and aunt, Homer and Linda Brookshire. Both of them really enjoyed reading, so I felt the library was a fitting tribute to them.”
The Dickerson family
“Once our family found out about the opportunity to provide a free library, we had to jump on the chance to give back to the community. Children are amazing. They are resilient, brave, full of joy, full of laughter, full of hope. We appreciate our community wanting to provide opportunities for children to learn in a variety of settings. The free little library is one small way to encourage families to not only spend quality time together reading, but also to encourage children to let their imaginations take them up, up, and away! Happy reading!”
Mark and Angela Whitaker
“For over 50 years, McCanless Park has been a part of our family’s life. This project represents an opportunity to continue its legacy as an important place of community for families like ours and those who are new to our city. We imagine these Little Libraries as gathering places where children and adults alike can explore new worlds and ideas. They are a small step that we can be a part of in the process of creating equitable access to resources and hopefully learn from those who visit our little red schoolhouse.”
Dr. Susan Buice and Becky Buice
“Becky and I grew up always hearing the story of how our mother’s great uncle deeded the land for Harmon Field to the city of Canton, with the only stipulation in the deed being that the field always be used for children to have a safe place to play. We have always called Harmon Field our family’s field.
“Shawn Tolan posted on Cherokee Connect, asking for sponsors for Little Free Libraries to be placed in every park in the city of Canton. Harmon Field was on the list. We knew immediately that we wanted to be a part of carrying on the family tradition of providing for the children who would play at Harmon Field.
“We purchased the library and hundreds of books to be placed in the library. Some of our friends have also donated books. Our niece Haley Roderick and her daughter Julianna attended the ribbon cutting with us. Julianna makes the sixth generation of Harmon ancestors who have made contributions to Harmon Field.”
The Farrar family
“Our restaurants and family are big believers in supporting our community and families every chance we get. We have seen these in many other towns and always loved the idea. Being able to gift people books and the power of reading means the world to us. Shawn chose this park for us, as he said it was the heart of the city. Later, we learned it was named after the father of one of our dear regulars. We also wanted to help support the Hispanic community. One of our employees lives there and he has gotten his adorable 7-year-old reading more and giving back.”