John Crooks, 2017-2018 President of the North Coast Rotary, spearheaded the effort to engage local rotary clubs to financially support the Lorain County Imagination Library. Past Club President Doug Maurer and North Coast Board Member Ben Hodge (also a Lorain County Literacy Collaborative member) presented the funding initiative at Rotary Club Meetings throughout the area.
Rotarians from North Coast, Vermillion, Elyria Sunrise, Amherst, Oberlin, Lorain and Elyria Noon Club actively promoted the program and made financial contributions totaling $5000. A matching grant of $5000 was secured by Bob Scott, North Coast’s Foundation Coordinator, with the support of Rotary District 6600’s Foundation Chair, Rex Engle.
The $10,000 check was presented to the Stocker Foundation on February 6, 2018. The Stocker Foundation matched the $10,000 with another $10,000, resulting in a $20,000 contribution towards the Lorain County Imagination Library.
The project was rolled out in the communities that were deemed the most in need. Poverty levels, lack of availability of books, low school achievement were a few facts taken into consideration. By March 2018, all communities in Lorain County were included.
Through Lorain County (Dolly Parton’s) Imagination Library any child in Lorain County from birth to age 5 is eligible to receive a free book delivered to their house, in the mail, every month. A child signed up at birth for LCIL will receive 60 high quality books. The 1st book received will be The Little Engine that Could. The last book received will be Look out Kindergarten, Here I Come!
The Stocker Foundation plays a critical role. From 2017 through 2021, The Stocker Foundation serves as the backbone agency of LCIL, providing key leadership and financial support ($400,000 over five years — $100,000 outright and$75,000 one-to-one challenges for Years Two through Five). Community Foundation of Lorain County is an active collaborator, serving as LCIL’s fiscal sponsor.
Lorain County Imagination Library was established in 2016 by a caring group of individuals representing all facets of the early childhood and public education sectors. Initially, The United Way of Greater Lorain County’s Ready Set Go…to Kindergarten implemented Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in Elyria in 2015. The response in the community was immediate and positive with registrations outpacing national predictions. Elyria Rotarians had been involved in the program’s startup in 2015 and its success led to the development of the Lorain County Literacy Collaborative which championed the expansion of the program into every community in Lorain County.