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Dolly Parton's Imagination Library ends due to lack of funds

Thursday, July 3, 2014 | 5:19 p.m. CDT; updated 9:10 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 4, 2014

COLUMBIA — When Sherry Waddill’s daughter, Halley, was in the intensive care unit for nine days after she was born, her doctor wrote one sentence on a prescription pad: Read to her daily, love her always.

That is when Waddill decided to enroll Halley in Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, which has been promoting literacy in the Columbia area since 2008 by delivering free books monthly to children less than the age of 5.

The most recent book Halley received was “The Mine-O-Saur” by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen. The story centers on a dinosaur that loses its friends because it does not know how to share.

Through the books, Waddill said, Halley has developed a love of reading.

“Now she takes her books she receives and she knows them by heart,” Waddill said.

Beginning in August, Halley will not find her next favorite book waiting in the mailbox. On Tuesday, Columbia's Imagination Library Committee decided there was not enough money to continue the Imagination Library in Columbia after the United Way's funding ended on June 1.

Heart of Missouri United Way, which provided $150,000 in 2013 to the Dolly Parton library in Columbia, decided in spring to stop supporting the outreach program operated by Daniel Boone Regional Library.

The Imagination Library committee had from the time of the United Way's announcement to raise more money to keep the program running. It searched for corporate funding , which it did not recieve. Through the help of private donations, it was able to raise about $18,000 during June and July to sustain it for those months.

“We looked at a number of different opportunities, but it was difficult on such a quick turnaround,” said Karen Taylor, chairwoman of Columbia’s Dolly Parton Imagination Library.

At its peak between 2013 and 2014, more than 4,800 families were registered for the Columbia program.

Although the last books will be sent to families at the end of July, Taylor hopes to revive the library in the future. “I’m not ready to give up just yet,” she said.

With the end of the program, Waddill, along with other Columbia families, will have to find their books elsewhere.

“There are many children out there that those books are the only books that they will ever receive, and that really burdens me,” Waddill said.


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