Drew Russo, president of the Friends of the St. Thomas Public Library, announced Thursday he would donate funds to the organization in memory of his father, Vincent Russo, who died in 2019.
News of the donation was met with applause by the 17 members of the group, which met at the Charles Wesley Turnbull Regional Public Library.
Russo said the organization’s bank account, which currently has just over $4,000, is being drained by storage fees of $249 per month. “At that rate, I don’t think no matter how many outreaches we did where we raise money or ask for membership contributions, we could ever recover that money. That is a problem we have recognized,” Russo said.
“My father of 95 passed away in June. I have been doing a lot of hospice care back and forth and have been working on his estate since he passed … so I would like to pay, on behalf of my father and in his memory, to make a donation to the Friends to pay that storage space rental until the end of 2021,” Russo said.
He acknowledged that the donation isn’t a permanent solution but said it would at least buy the organization some time to find an alternative.
Because the storage situation is rectified for the next couple years, the books vital to ensure the success of certain programs will also be saved.
Russo said the most successful program the Friends have launched has been the Daycare Literacy Program which operates similar to a lending library. The program has been operating for 18 years. Volunteers bring five books to various daycare classes and read them to the children before leaving the books there for a week. Each week another volunteer returns to the daycare to both pick up the last week’s books and introduce the children to another five books.
According to the minutes of the Friends meeting on June 21, 2019, eight daycare centers are enlisted in the program. Several others want to participate in the program, but the Friends say they need more volunteers.
The 600 books used for the Daycare Literacy Program are just some of the items that are stored in the storage facility Russo’s donation is helping to pay for.
“Carol Lotz-Felix has always been nervous about the storage space and how to pay for it. She doesn’t know anything about the donation I’m making in memory of my father, but she is going to be so pleased to know that it’s something that will keep the program going … Now it’s something she doesn’t have to worry about, and she will be able to continue and doesn’t have to feel embarrassed to ask people to volunteer to read while not knowing how long the program is going to be,” Russo said.
To volunteer or to become a member of the Friends of the St. Thomas Public Library residents can visit the website and fill out a short application.
Annual dues are free for those younger than 18 years of age, $5 for seniors, $10 for individuals, $15 for families and $100 for corporations.
Russo said libraries are instrumental to the community and the organization welcomes all volunteers, who keep the territory’s libraries operational.