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Kiwanis, library help family who lost children’s books in fire

The Saldana family lost a lot in January when the home they were renting caught fire. What the fire didn’t destroy, the smoke and water ruined.

There was much to be grateful for, too, said Judy Saldana. No one in the family was harmed. And, when the smoke cleared, the family got a helping hand from friends and agencies and are buying a home of their own now.

Among the things missed that the fire took, however, were the libraries that the four children had begun building through the Imagination Library program, a joint effort in Blount County between Imagination Library and the Maryville Kiwanis, with help from the Blount County Public Library. The Saldana children missed the books that had been coming to their house each month -- both the new ones and the ones they had already collected.

A chance meeting with Kiwanian Herb Meyer was at Foothills Mall working to sign up more children for the Imagination Library brought the Saldana family saga to light.

“I was at the mall, signing people up,” said Meyer. “Judy came up to talk to us, and, in the course of the conversation and getting her new address all situated, she mentioned the fire and the destroyed books.”

Meyer said he wasn’t sure how he could help, but he knew who would be able to put all the pieces together. He called Nancy Underwood at the Blount County Public Library.

“Nancy just jumped right in,” Meyer said. “She was able to get a list of the books each child had received before the fire. And then she started going through returns and unclaimed books that come back to us when someone moves or leaves the program.”

Underwood calls the books her “recycled books.”

The youngest Saldana children were still in the program and just needed a new address to get them started again.

The surprise, however, came last month when the family was asked to come to the library. What they found was that Meyers and Underwood had filled a little red wagon with most of the books they lost in the fire. Each child has his or her age-appropriate stack of books to take home -- a total of more than 60 books.

“This is wonderful,” Judy Saldana said. “They love the books and this gets their library back in shape.”

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