This Saturday, YMCA kids and families got together at the Valparaiso YMCA Pavilion to make their mark on their community. The YMCA Togetherhood Program’s newest initiative will be the installation of five little libraries at the public parks this year, each one with a personal touch from local kids.
“The premise behind the Togetherhood Libraries is take a book, leave a book, or take a book, read it, and put it back in,” said Jodi Jackson, Event and Volunteer Coordinator at the Valpo YMCA. “Anybody can take advantage of these little libraries. That’s what they’re intended for.”
Families got together to decorate three of the volunteer-built structures with thumbprint designs and markers. The kids also had a chance to paint rocks for Valpo Rocks as well as prepare some of the books to be placed in the library structures.
The little library project was organized by the YMCA Togetherhood Program. The group is comprised of YMCA members who volunteer to give back to the community. This initiative is the epitome of what the group hopes to accomplish.
“It just came about with all of us just wanting to leave a mark on the community and just kind of leaving a lasting impression, said Crystal Olympidis, Chair of the Togetherhood Program. “Something that’s going to be there for years to come for the kids to use.”
Valparaiso is a vibrant and active community, and the good people at the Togetherhood Program know that in order to maintain this culture, a sense of pride must be fostered in today’s youth.
“To have a community like Valparaiso where everybody is so generous, you have to give back and you have to start at a young age. You have to get the kids involved with just these little things so that they can have some accountability for their communities,” Olympidis said.
For kids, it can be difficult to understand why giving back is so important and what it can mean for their future. Fun events like this give the kids something tangible to take ownership of and gives them something to look forward to.
“It gives them something substantial to hold onto and say, ‘I helped with that project!’ or, ‘There’s my fingerprint on that box, so I’m going to take care of it and I’m going to make sure I fill it up with books and it gets used and I tell everybody about it.’”
Now having decorated the boxes, the kids will seek them out at the parks and share the opportunity with their friends. One child present at the event, Andrew Chen, age 9, said that he is excited to be able to take advantage of the handy little libraries.
“I used to live in Keystone Commons, I don’t anymore,” he said. “There was one of those little libraries. It was convenient. I could go there anytime, read a book, and then put it back.”
The reciprocity of the Togetherhood Libraries is representative of what the YMCA hopes to achieve in its community. What’s more, it’ll give kids the chance to keep up with some of those academic skills that are often ignored during the long break!
This summer, kids can find the little libraries at Will Park, Butterfly Park, and Sunset Hill Park in Valparaiso. To learn more about the Valparaiso YMCA and the Togetherhood Program, please visit their website.