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Making literacy contagious

Despite the pandemic keeping libraries closed, Suffolk can still have easy access to more books.

The Suffolk Sheriff’s Office partnered with Lowe’s and UPS to place more Little Free Libraries around the city.

Lowe’s on Main Street donated the supplies to the sheriff’s office to build these boxes in four new locations. The UPS store off Godwin Boulevard donated boxes of everything from picture to chapter books to fill the little libraries.

“Lowe’s values giving back to the community,” said Mike Kaelin, store manager at Lowe’s on Main Street. “Very excited to be able to assist the city of Suffolk with this outstanding project. We look forward to future opportunities to support the community.”

Little Free Libraries is a nonprofit that promotes book exchanges in communities. Neighborhoods put up decorated boxes outside where residents can leave a book and take a book. This encourages literacy and gives people, especially kids, the chance to read more since the libraries are closed due to the pandemic.

“Our mission is to get books out to kids and adults and promote literacy in the city,” said Amy Eichelberger, owner of UPS store 5885. “We’re very excited for this and would love to see Little Free Libraries all over the city.”

The UPS store off Godwin Boulevard is ranked fourth out of 5,000 nationwide locations for its fundraising. In the last four years, this store gave over 16,000 books in Suffolk.

Two of the four locations for these Little Free Libraries have already been chosen. One will be at the Suffolk Sheriff’s Office and the other at East Suffolk Recreation Center. The hope is also to have one at The Commons at Centerbrooke apartments and another in northern Suffolk.

Any Little Free Library would not be complete without a unique design. The Suffolk Sheriff’s Office’s plan is to have local high school students in the area where they are placed create a design. For the one in front of the Suffolk Sheriff’s Office, students from Suffolk Christian Church will submit their ideas, and the winner will be able to receive volunteer hours for their work. In front of East Suffolk Recreation Center, the plan is to have the Suffolk Art Gallery refer a student for the same process.

“We want these boxes to be a true representation of the location it is in,” said Katie Jones, the community engagement coordinator at Suffolk Sheriff’s Office. “This also gives the community some investment to the box.”

The Suffolk Sheriff’s Office’s hope is for blessing boxes also to come to these areas with nonperishable foods. This will hopefully take off sometime after the first of the year. Other Little Free Libraries have already done this across the country, filling them with things such as food, cloth masks, and even toilet paper.

“We hope that these boxes become contagious,” said Jones. “Happy to do this since this year, we haven’t done much community engagement, and we’re staying safe.”