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Donations exceed $31,000 for program that provides free books to children to promote childhood literacy

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Members of United Way of Columbia County, along with the St. Helens Daybreakers Kiwanis Club, Scappoose Library and Columbia County, gather to celebrate the successful upstart of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. Giving Tuesday was marked by a gathering of several community partners in Scappoose to celebrate the successful upstart of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.

The program allows young children up to five years old to receive regular shipments of books by mail each month, to help foster reading and child literacy within their households.

On Tuesday, Nov. 27, members of the United Way of Columbia County gathered with donors to celebrate a $10,000 grant from the Oregon Public Library Innovation Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation — a key donation to the program.

The grant will help sustain the program for the next few years. So far, more than 600 children have been enrolled to receive books through the program, according to

local program affiliate information.

Country music singer and actress Dolly Parton started the program in 1995 in her home state of Tennessee, as a way to ensure children received free, high-quality books regardless of their family's income. The program grew internationally and is now available to children in Columbia County.

The county program has received help from several partners, including St. Helens Daybreakers Kiwanis, the Columbia County commissioners, Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization, Friends of the Scappoose Library, United Way of Columbia County, and the Ford Family Foundation, among other organizations.

The James & Shirley Rippey Family Foundation also provided a three-year match of funds for the program. The grant from the Oregon Public Library Innovation Fund is the largest to date.

"This $10,000 puts us at [over] $31,000 raised since May," Kathye Beck of United Way told a small crowd Tuesday. "If it wasn't for the volunteers and the Friends of the Library and the Lions and the Kiwanis, United Way never could've done this by ourselves."

Diane Dunn, chair of the board of directors for the county's United Way chapter, says she's seen the benefits of the Imagination Library firsthand with her granddaughter.

"When I go to visit, she pulls out her books and I see the little Dolly Parton Imagination Library sticker on there."

The program is free to families and monthly book fees are covered by United Way.

To sign up for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, visit unitedwayofcolumbiacounty.com and look for the 'enroll online' button.

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