Donations needed for local Dolly Parton books for kids program

Twenty years ago, Dolly Parton began the Imagination Library in Sevier County, Tennessee where she was raised by her father who could not read. Her mission to eradicate illiteracy, has since spread to involve the entire US as well as Canada, UK, and Australia. Her program has been responsible for delivery of over 100 million books.

Since it’s inception, educational outcome data has shown improvement in not only language, but math and science achievement as well. The concept is simple, provide books to children from birth through age five. That is, home monthly delivery of an age-appropriate book, free of charge to the child and parents. Thus, a child could have a library totaling sixty books by the start of kindergarten. Books each child can hold in their hand and call their own. Books which parents can use to start their child off on a journey of lifelong learning and achievement.

Unfortunately, the library is not free. It requires a champion to fund the local initiative for each community. The cost is $25 per child, per year and delivery is made by the United States Postal Service. The Gase Family Literacy Fund was established through the Tiffin Community Foundation in February 2018. This program serves as the local source of funding for the Imagination Library. Initially open to children born in 2018, it is now open to enrollment of all children in the 44883 zip code, ages zero through five years.

My wife, Anne and I began the fund with a goal of establishing an endowment to cover the cost long-term. This endowment will require approximately $300,000. Thanks to generous donors and community-minded individuals, we have achieved one-third of our goal in the first year. We have been very pleased to receive funds from foundations including: National Machinery Foundation, Meshech Frost, Webster Foundation, The White Fund, Charles D. Hering “Bud” Fund, Youth Advisory Council of TCF, and The Bruno’s Tiffin Crawl, 2018. Ultimately, we estimate a need for approximately $800,000 to fund the entire county. Many communities around the country have done this through their local libraries, United Way, or other charitable organizations. We have partnered with Tiffin-Seneca Public Library and Tiffin City Schools to administer the program, but funding has been our sole responsibility thus far.

Our current governor and his wife, Fran DeWine, have embarked on an initiative to make the Dolly Parton Imagination Library available to children state-wide. This is a bold concept, but one with tremendous potential to improve the educational foundation of Ohio students for future generations. It has not been established how the states will assist local initiatives in advancing their literacy cause. At this time, we are attempting to raise the needed funding through local charitable organizations and individuals. We invite individuals or groups passionate about our children’s future education, to join us wiht your support. Donations can be made to the Tiffin Community Foundation in the name of The Gase Family Literacy Fund. The task is grand and the benefit, extordinary. Please join us.

Andrew and Anne Gase