Every child should have access to books, no matter their economic status. So believes the North Phoenix Kiwanis Club, and members backed up that belief last month in a tangible way.

In keeping with Kiwanis International’s Read Around the World Initiative, the local Kiwanis club on Feb. 15 set up free lending libraries in the leasing offices of two Phoenix apartment complexes: Dunlap Falls at 3333 W. Dunlap Ave., and Villa Toscana at 10201 N. 33rd Ave. Three more “lending libraries” are in the works, also planned for area apartment complexes that serve more socioeconomically challenged families.

Celebrating the unveiling of the first North Phoenix Kiwanis Lending Library at the Dunlap Falls Apartment Homes are, from left: Alysa Edwards from the Friends of the Phoenix Public Library; John Gilchrist, store manager, Rockler Woodworking; Jeremy Dennis of American Furniture Warehouse; Dunlap Falls leasing agents Adriana Balderrama, Emma Villa (assistant manager) and Julian Cruz; North Phoenix Kiwanis President David Balzarini; Kiwanis board member Dave Fogt; and Dist. 5 Phoenix City Councilwoman Vania Guevara (photo by Teri Carnicelli).

The Kiwanis purchased an assortment of books from the First Book Marketplace, using grant monies from Walmart and Ross Dress for Less. In addition, members held a book drive and brought in several hundred donated books just via word of mouth.

The Kiwanis then contacted the Friends of the Phoenix Public Library, the nonprofit organization that supports the city’s library system. The Friends group works with area organizations that provide literacy programs for children, and allows those organizations to come to their warehouse and select up to 250 to take for free. This offer is available to these groups one time each year.

With nearly 1,800 books in hand, from beginning readers to mid-teen, the Kiwanis were ready to launch their first lending library. Members recalled having worked with Dunlap Falls on a different project, and found the property’s new management company, Chamberlain & Associates, to be accommodating and eager to participate.

From there, the North Phoenix Kiwanis reached out to other business partners in the community, including American Furniture Warehouse, which donated 10 bookshelves, and Rockler Woodworking, which custom engraved each bookshelf. In addition, Williams Express Printing created custom labels, and workers in the vocational program at ValleyLife placed those labels inside each book that will go into a Kiwanis lending library.

More than 400 books—from fantasy, to literature, to educational topics like science, math and geology—were placed in each of the two lending libraries unveiled on Feb. 15. Additional books are still be gathered, not just for future lending libraries, but also to replace books that may go missing or unreturned at the existing locations.

The North Phoenix Kiwanis is continuing to collect books and also is looking for volunteer readers to come to these spaces on a periodic basis and be available to read to children after school and on Saturdays. For more information, e-mail KiwanisLibrary@yahoo.com.


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