‘Little Engine That Could’ chugs to 5th birthday

Maryville Kiwanis celebrate as Imagination Library turns 5

There were babies receiving “first” books, graduates receiving “last” books and everyone in between as the Kiwanis Club of Maryville gathered members, children and the community to celebrate the 5th birthday of Imagination Library.

About 100 people turned out to celebrate said Kiwanis Club of Maryville President Robert Russell.

“It went really well. We had about 100 people come. It has been five years since we kicked it off and we’ve had about 250,000 books delivered, and we’re delivering now at the rate of 4,500 a month,” he said. “We have about 70 percent penetration of the eligible children recipients in Blount County -- one of the highest penetrations of any county in Tennessee.”

Russell said the club members raise between $50,000 to $60,000 a year to pay their half of the project, which was started by Country Music legend Dolly Parton, and the governor’s Books from Birth program pays the other half. “We raise money with our April golf tournament and the pancake breakfast this Saturday, Nov. 20, at Maryville High School, as well as through major sponsors like United Way and the Clayton family,” he said.

Russell said that because the group’s mission is to change the world one child and one community at a time, Imagination Library fit perfectly with what the group’s mission was to do - improve lives of young children. “We felt if parents could get book for their children five years old or younger, we could make a difference and statics already bear out the graduates are already reading earlier and performing better in all subjects in school.

Russell said a variety of dignitaries were on hand. “We had representatives from the Governor’s Books from Birth program and a representative from Dollywood Foundation at the event who was also at original kickoff,” he said.

Also at the anniversary were Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell, Maryville City Mayor Tom Taylor, Blount County Schools Director Rob Britt, State Sen. Doug Overbey, State Rep. Bob Ramsey and United Way of Blount County president and CEO Michelle Hankes.

Russell said the annual Maryville Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast is Saturday from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the Maryville High School cafeteria. Tickets are $5 and young children 12 and younger eat for free. For anyone wanting additional information about Imagination Library or Maryville Kiwanis is encouraged to call 865-384-7092.

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