01/21/11 — Family's $60,000 donation brings Mount Olive library near goal

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Family's $60,000 donation brings Mount Olive library near goal

By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 21, 2011 1:46 PM

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Lynn Williams, left, chairman of the Steele Memorial Library Steering Committee, Thursday night announced that a $60,000 donation by the family of the late June and Betsy Martin has pushed grassroots fundraising efforts for Mount Olive's new library to more than $280,000 of its $350,000 goal. Tyler Barwick, right, president of the Mount Olive Area Chamber of Commerce, arranges a poster listing those who have made donations or pledges to the project.

MOUNT OLIVE -- A $60,000 donation by the family of the late June and Betsy Martin has pushed grassroots fundraising efforts for the town's new Steele Memorial Library to more than $280,000 -- just $70,000 short of its $350,000 goal.

The donation was announced Thursday night during the Mount Olive Area Chamber of Commerce's Business After Hours. The program, sponsored by the Mt. Olive Pickle Co., was held in the recently renovated old train depot.

Martin was the longtime postmaster for the town, and Mrs. Martin was an elementary school teacher.

"In October, we were at about $210,000," said Lynn Williams, chairman of the Steele Memorial Library Steering Committee. "Two recent gifts have come in in the past two weeks that make up the largest private gift to date. The Martin family has contributed a total of $60,000 to honor June and Betsy Martin. He was very well-respected and loved and his wife, Betsy, taught first grade, I believe -- a dear couple, well-known, much loved and well-respected.

"We are very grateful to their children for getting this started. That is really a significant step forward."

The Steele Memorial Library Steering Committee's campaign goal of $350,000 is about 10 percent of the anticipated project cost of between $3.5 million and $4 million.

"It has been a lot of work, but it has been a lot of fun," Mrs. Williams said. "It has been a lot of fun. People are passionate here in Mount Olive about their library. Talk about being together, the library brings people together in ways that probably few institutions do.

"As of Tuesday, Jan. 18 our gifts and pledges total $280,479. That puts us at about 80 percent of our goal. That is just a wonderful feeling to me. Once we hit the $300,000 mark the county has indicated to us it will begin the processing of searching and finding an architect. So we are real close to seeing things take off."

The $280,479 represents about 76 different donors with donations and pledges ranging from about $55,000 to $1, made by a 5-year-old girl, she said.

"It is phenomenal and in these hard times to think that people are opening their hearts and giving like that is jut wonderful," said Wayne County Library director Jane Rustin. "The generosity of the Martin family and the memories they have. It shows that libraries do build communities and we are a cornerstone and people need to realize that needs to keep going -- that this next generation needs to have that same successful feeling and happiness in that special place.

"I believe the $300,000 is the benchmark when we can start looking for that architect. When we see the visualization of our dreams I think that is going to be a real spur to that final bit of fundraising we have to do."

Mrs. Williams thanked the companies, foundations, corporations and individuals who have given to the project. And for those who have yet to give, the committee will be more than glad to accept their donations as well, she said.

Initial donations in 2009 of $5,000 each from the Mt. Olive Pickle Co. and Southern Bank foundations and $2,500 from the Mount Olive Area Chamber of Commerce were used to hire library consultant Phil Barton of Salisbury. The fundraising efforts got under way last January.

Public meetings were held last fall to gather local input and committee members also visited libraries around the state to gather ideas.

The Andy's Foundation provided the first pledge, $30,000 over three years, for the campaign, she said. It was quickly followed by $50,000 donations by the Mt. Olive Pickle Co. and Southern Bank foundations.

"One of the things about Steele (Library) are the memories," she said. "I remember playing on the steps on the old building as a kid while my mother was browsing. We would play on the steps and have such a good time. Then how big I felt when I was picking out books of my own and checking them out."

February is "Love Your Library Month" and those in attendance were asked to write down their favorite library memories of the library or what Steele Memorial means to them now on a red cutout heart. The hearts will be displayed at the library next month.

Still in the planning stages is a basketball-themed fundraiser for children and families in March possibly at Mount Olive Middle School. It will involve college rivalries and the library will be decorated with collegiate team colors for whichever local team raises the most money.

A mailing list had been planned for the fall, but the committee "slam ran out of time," Mrs. Williams said. The committee is now looking at a spring mailing.

As planned the library would boast separate areas for small children and teens, and an exterior courtyard where patrons could sit and read or take advantage of a wireless Internet connection. The courtyard probably would be located on the large sidewalk area in front of the new library and access would be through the library only.

Public meeting space would be available after hours. There would be several smaller study spaces and public computer areas, too.

Brochures about the project have been printed and are be available at the library, as well as other locations around town.

Giving levels are $0 to $99, Bookworm; $100 to $499, Reader; $500 to $999, Author; $1,000 to $2,499, Illustrator; $2,500 to $4,999, Publisher; $5,000 to $9,999 Marion Hargrove Circle; and $10,000 and more, W.C. Steele Society.

Hargrove, a Mount Olive native, became a successful author and screenwriter for TV and movies. A collection of his papers and works is housed at the library.

Dr. Steele started the first fundraiser to build a library in the 1930s, but died before it was completed. The Belk's building that will house the new library sits on the site once occupied by Steele's house.

Checks should be made payable to Wayne County Public Library, and the Steele Memorial Building Project should be indicated on the checks. Checks may be mailed to the Wayne County Public Library, 1001 E. Ash St., Goldsboro, NC 27530.

The county purchased the 23,000-square-foot Belk's building for $400,000 from Mount Olive College.

Approximately 15,581 square feet would be used for library services. It is expected to have shelving capacity for more than 67,000 items including 20,000 children's books and audiovisual items, 40,000 adult and teen books and 7,000 audiovisual items.

The new library is being promoted as a regional facility to serve all of southern Wayne County.

"We have had a library in Mount Olive for over 80 years and it was the people in the community who made it happen in the beginning when it was Dr. (W.C.) Steele's," Mrs. Williams said. "It was the community that made it happen in its current space and it is the community that is making it happen for our much vastly expanded new space that is to come.

"We have been consistently passionate about libraries in Mount Olive and for that I am very grateful."