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Vernon Area Public Library helps communities

LINCOLNSHIRE – Visitors picking up books or attending programs at Vernon Area Public Library also can drop off donations to the local food pantry throughout the year and make other seasonal contributions to area charities.

Clearly labeled collection bins in the library lobby make year-round donating simple and convenient for patrons.

A year-round food drive is one of several charity collections organized by the library, spearheaded by Head of Circulation Stephen Territo.

When Territo began working at Vernon Area Public Library in 2003, the library offered two food-for-fines drives a year. During the weeklong events, patrons could “pay” fines owed on overdue materials with a contribution of nonperishable items for the local food pantry. To Territo, the campaigns demonstrated the library is an ideal place to conduct charitable drives that benefit the community.

In 2006 he arranged for the library to become a collection point for Toys for Tots, a project of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve that works to get holiday gifts to children whose families can’t afford them. The now-annual drive collects about 200 toys and games every season.

Inspired by that success, Territo began working with the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County to collect shoes, with those that still have life in them being redirected to charitable organizations for people to reuse. Others are ground up, becoming material for something new.

Over the past 10 years, library patrons have donated 3,187 pairs of shoes – “more than enough to make a basketball or tennis court,” Territo said.

The library has been a collection point for gently used prom dresses, interview clothing for women re-entering the workplace, pajamas for children in need, board games for homeless shelters, worn-out American flags for proper disposal by the Boy Scouts, sports equipment for young athletes whose families are unable to equip them and pet supplies for local animal shelters.

Drives may be initiated by nonprofit organizations or individuals, such as Eagle Scout candidates who are working on a special project that benefits a nonprofit.

The group or individual coordinates pickup. The library gives priority to organizations that directly serve the residents of the district and supports each drive with signage and promotion.

When Vernon Area Public Library eliminated fines for overdue materials in 2015, the food pantry drive was made year-round.

A bin in the library’s lobby regularly fills with patron donations, adding up to about seven copy paper-sized boxes of food every two months or so. Another ongoing collection is for eyeglasses, collected by the Lions Club of Buffalo Grove.

“We’ve seen donations ebb and flow with the economy, but patron response has been positive throughout,” Territo said.

Charitable collections are one way the library helps strengthen the communities it serves.

“We partner with groups and individuals to make it convenient for library patrons to give regularly and benefit the area where they live,” he said.

Throughout May, the public may drop off donations of Lego toy building bricks for library Lego classes as well as nonperishables for the food pantry.

The Vernon Area Public Library District serves a population of 42,900 in communities including Lincolnshire, Prairie View and parts of Buffalo Grove, Long Grove, Riverwoods, Vernon Hills, and unincorporated Vernon and Ela townships.

For information about the library and its services, visit www.vapld.info.

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