Syble Solomon, the local coordinator for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program in the Bitterroot, is feeling a bit overwhelmed by the latest fundraising effort initiated and spearheaded by Jaime Devlin, the owner of A2Z Personnel and her staff. Last week Solomon was presented a ceremonial check for $22,645 by Liz Cook who coordinated the fundraising for A2Z. The check represented the total that A2Z raised for the local Imagination Library program.
Solomon was busy preparing thank you letters and tax receipts on Monday. She said the bulk of the donations came from the Stevensville area, but people from as far away as Ohio, California and even Canada read the stories in the local newspapers and sent in donations. In all, Solomon said that almost $25,000 was raised.
“It was really awesome,” said Solomon. “While we were doing okay, we couldn’t aggressively expand and take on new children. Now we have enough money to have a nice solid base to support the current participants and also add more children.”
As of December 31st, one thousand and fifty-six children in Ravalli County have registered for the program, which sends a free book a month to all participants. The program is open to all children from birth to 5 years old. 184 local children have graduated from the program.
Country music icon Dolly Parton launched Imagination Library in 1995, to benefit the children of her home county in East Tennessee. Dolly’s vision was to foster a love of reading among preschool children and their families. Through mailing high quality, age appropriate books directly to their homes, Parton hopes that children will be excited about books and feel the magic that books can create. Now Imagination Library sends out more than one million books per month to children across the United States and the world.
Ravalli County’s population in the 0-5 group is about 2000. Solomon would like to get every one of those children registered. The program costs about $25 per child, so Solomon fixed on $25,000 as the amount needed to fund the program with double the number of participants. And it appears that goal has been reached.
“That made me feel so good, knowing we have the financial support to add more children,” said Solomon. “But knowing that we have kids that still aren’t in the program makes me feel passionate about getting them signed up.”
“I can’t even find the words to express my gratitude for A2Z and Liz and Jaime and the team,” said Solomon. “Their support not only in terms of the amount of money, but the effort and awareness they put into it, involving both the business community and families, it was phenomenal. I’m totally overwhelmed by their thoughtfulness and the work they put into this.”
Solomon also expressed appreciation for the help the local newspapers have given in spreading the word. “That’s just been wonderful, too,” she said.
Solomon said that when she agreed to be the coordinator and start the Ravalli County program in 2020, she “started on a prayer.” She said that although she has support from First Security Bank, the primary sponsor, and Sapphire Community Health, program partner, and has applied for and received a number of grants, she has never done the type of community fundraising that A2Z Personnel just completed.
“The wonderful thing was, having A2Z do this, and seeing their attitude and seeing how they approached it, was a real education,” said Solomon. “It was amazing.”
A total of 14,559 books have been shipped to participants of Imagination Library in Ravalli County since launching in June of 2020. Solomon’s statistics for 2022 show that from January to December of 2021, a total of 11,173 books have been shipped to local children. At an estimated cost of $2.25 per book, that indicates a total cost of $25,139.
Solomon wants to continue to spread the word about Imagination Library. “I would like to have 1200 kids registered by National Children’s Book Day on April 2nd,” she said. That would be 144 new kids.
Anyone wanting brochures to put in their businesses can email her at [email protected] She can also send out digital versions of the information so people can post it to their websites or social media pages.
To make a direct donation, or to register your child for the program, go online to imaginationlibraryravallicounty.com. Children can also be registered at any of the public libraries. Brochures including a mail-in registration form can be found in many local businesses.