All 40 of the preschoolers and their teachers from the Harris and Tucker School in Newhallville were dressed in their going-on-trip shirts.
The were waiting for the van to arrive to take them all to the Stetson Branch Library. They were going there not just to have a reading program, which they often do, but also to fulfill an important mission.
However, beneath the onslaught of torrential squalls the van refused to start.
So longtime school director Kim Harris took two of the kids — 7-year-old Spirite Watson and 11-year-old Aneissa Beam — and jumped in her car to keep the appointment and the fulfill the mission: To help the Stetson Library mark The Week of The Young Child by contributing $110 that the kids creatively raised towards the Stetson Next Chapter campaign.
The Week of the Young Child, sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, runs through Friday. It has been a feature of Stetson programs for years.
What is new this year is that it coincides with a community campaign to raise $250,000 towards an overall goal of $2 million to outfit with books, computers, and furniture the new Stetson library that will be created in the new Q House across Dixwell Avenue.
Spirite and Aneissa were proud to present $110 they and their peers and families had raised through a costume party.
Spirite said she came dressed as Shuri from the movie Black Panther. Aniessa was Beyonce. Aneissa also had—count ‘em—six of her friends in tow, all costumed, and all contributing to the Stetson branch,a community learning anchor.
While funds have been donated by kids from some of the city’s high schools, Harris and Tucker’s gift is the first from a day care and pre-school/after-school institution, said longtime Stetson Branch Librarian Diane Brown, who was present Monday to receive the gift.
Since the Dixwell Community Q House closed in 2003, the 100-year old branch library has evolved into a community center.
Work on the new Q House is expected to commence this spring and conclude within 18 months. Raising the money for learning tools, desks, chairs, and other innovative stuff is the work of a community campaign called Stetson Library: The Next Chapter.
Of the $2 million goal of the campaign, $1.4 million has already been raised.
Of the balance, $250,000 is hoped to come from a community campaign, comprised of individuals, kids like Spirite and Aneissa and others. Of that quarter million, $85,000 is now in hand, from more than 200 individuals, including the Harris and Tucker kids’ $110.
Brown always says the campaign is about not just money, but building community buy-in. “We want a kid who rides by [the new] Stetson to say, ‘I am part of that.’”
Then she paraphrased her mother, who made the same point this way: “I gave a nickel toward that quarter.”
Spirite reported that when she comes to Stetson, she goes straight for the puppy books. Aneissa said she likes “chapter books on adventure and black history stuff.”
There likely will be more of each at the new Stetson thanks to the girls’ and their school’s initiative.
After she helped present the check, Aneissa said she wasn’t done. “I want to challenge the other kids to contribute,” she said.
Brown said she will help the kids’ efforts by organizing her personal campaign of appearances at youth groups and churches to promote giving to the effort. One upcoming fundraiser: a jazz concert on Sunday, May 6, from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Knickerbocker Golf Club on Sherman Parkway.