Come Wednesday it will be quieter around here.
Saturday’s joyous block party, with amplified music, big tents and lawn games, sent a message to Independence’s Farview neighborhood as it celebrated the opening of a unique library-and-food-pantry refuge for families.
And it’s a message that will last beyond the festivities, said pantry volunteer, the Rev. Ginny Hart.
No one has to be alone “in this big world,” she said. “Everything is easier . . . if we’re all together.”
No one playing on the new library’s lawn during the Aug. 17 party was separated by economic levels of comfort or need — and that’s the unifying and dignifying spirit that the creators of this project want when families quietly visit the pantry, said Bruce Bailey with the Community Services League in Independence.
“It works in a way with no stigma attached to it,” he said.
CSL joined with the Mid-Continent Public Library system and the Fort Osage School District to create the new resource center for families at the school district’s former early childhood center at 18109 E 12th St North.
Fort Osage voters approved a bond issue in 2017 that included plans for a new early childhood center, leaving the district with the question of what to do with the old facility.
“We cannot be more thrilled with the partnership we created here,” said Fort Osage Superintendent Jason Snodgrass. “We’re so excited about how this space will be used for really helping families and students in this community for years to come.”
The pantry is open during mid-day hours on Wednesdays, staffed by volunteers from Village Heights Community of Christ. Visitors also have chances to sign up for financial literacy programs, life coaching, job search help and other resources.
The pantry coordinator, Tammy Lay, said she remembers what it was like to be in a hard spot, needing a boost, when she was a divorced mother, a teacher, struggling to raise two children.
“I’ve been in their shoes,” she said.
The pantry, paired with a library, gives parents a chance to find resources they need while their children join with others looking at books and other library offerings.
“It’s a social justice issue,” Lay said. “We’re dignifying human beings when they are feeling on the outside . . . maybe marginalized.”
From the moment the idea began “it just made a whole lot of sense,” said Steve Potter, director and CEO of Mid-Continent Public Library.
“A library is more than books,” he said. “It’s a place where people come together to collaborate and build strong communities and nourish minds.”
LINC’s Caring Communities program will be joining in using the new community center, with a Spanish reading club for children and parents. On Tuesdays, beginning Sept. 10, from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., the Spanish club will engage families with books and games.
LINC Caring Communities Site Coordinator Connie Parker with Buckner Elementary School watched the children at play at the block party — families sharing in making giant bubbles, exploring the library’s mobile “Reading Rocket” truck, eating grilled hotdogs, and painting faces.
“Communities need this,” Parker said. “This is going to take off. This is the beginning of something big.”
LINC wants to make sure “this is supported in any way we possibly can,” said Ken Lingelbach, site coordinator of the Caring Communities site at Blue Hills Elementary School.
Some 25 families have come through the pantry on each of the Wednesdays so far this summer, said Hart, a co-paster at Village Heights Community of Christ. The number of people in the households was more than 75.
And more than 1,000 books have been checked out, the library said.
More parties and special events will come to the Farview Neighborhood Library, but Bailey, the vice president for income supports at CSL, will remember the quieter scene he saw on a recent Wednesday.
He saw children in a reading circle, all of them picking out books they were going to check out. A mother getting her first library card.
By Joe Robertson, LINC writer