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FUMC operating “library” boxes

By Staff, 02/8/21 11:09 AM

PRESCOTT – Area residents may be noticing something different in a couple of locations in Prescott, primarily 301 Hale Ave. and at W. 3rd and Olive.

What they’re seeing is the First United Methodist Church’s library boxes. The idea came from pastor Terrie Lynn Bunnell who got the idea after seeing it elsewhere. She decided it would be good for the children of Prescott to have somewhere close and safe where they could get books to read. The church began collecting children’s books in March 2020 after everything was shut down due to COVID-19, with the boxes being placed in September. The two library boxes were built by Eddie Daniel and Steve Woods and placed by Pete DeWoody. The boxes are weatherproof to keep the books dry.

Bunnell said the locations were chosen because of their proximity to children. This is part of the Little Free Library Program, the world’s largest book sharing movement. Registered book boxes are put in a worldwide map that can be accessed online so people can find free books while traveling. The website is Littlefreelibrary.org.

Leslie Hughes monitors the boxes weekly, removing books based on seasonal changes and adding new ones, along with making sure the books are appropriate. Currently, the bulk of the books are for younger children, but plans are to add books for older readers as well. The FUMC in Arkansas is addressing the literacy problem and doing what it can to make reading fun.

In talking about the library boxes, Bunnell said when the pandemic hit and everything was closed down, children were locked up in their homes. This allows them to go somewhere safe, as the boxes are located in well-lighted areas, and get something to read. “I saw my first box in Prattsville,” she said. “It was in an old newspaper box.” She liked the idea and brought it to Prescott with her, where she got members of the congregation to build the two boxes. Permission was obtained at the two locations.

“We don’t put all religious books in the boxes,” Bunnel said. “We’re not trying to change people’s beliefs.”

The church is taking book donations for older children at this time. Books can be dropped off at the church or left under the alcove. One of the nice things about this program is children have the option of either keeping the books or returning them. There’s a sticker on the back of the book telling where it came from and can be returned, but if a child wants to keep it, it’s not a problem as the goal is to help improve literacy.

Additionally, Bunnell said, the church received a $2,000 grant to purchase food and is using the money to provide fruit, mainly apples and oranges, to children.

She added these aren’t the last two boxes that will be placed in the community. Plans are to put more boxes around town, making sure they’re in safe, well-lighted areas. When the first boxes were placed, door hangers were put on doors in the area to let residents know about them.  “Because of COVID restrictions, we’ve had to be more creative in getting the word out. People need to know the church cares about everyone, not just its members.”