The Conway Kiwanis Club has taken over the Conway Bookcase Project to help ensure Faulkner County children will continue receiving literature for years to come.
Jim Davidson founded the Conway Bookcase Project in 2005, helping to disperse more than 800 personalized bookcases and a starter set of books to pre-school children of low-income families over the last 15 years.
“With the pandemic, the mass protests and all the upheaval in our society, there is a staple in our community that countless citizens have come to depend on to make a positive difference,” Davidson said of the bookcase project.
Since its inception, five other states have begun offering the program as well. Davidson said he hopes the book project will become a nationwide project through the Kiwanis Club’s reach.
The local Kiwanis Club voted in January to manage the program, and member Richard Plotkin became chairman of the Conway Bookcase Project.
Conway Kiwanis Club President Amanda Horton said the group is excited about taking on the new role and keeping the bookcase program afloat in central Arkansas.
“We are thrilled to be able to continue this important project in our community,” Horton said. “The Conway Kiwanis Club mission centers around serving children by providing them resources that enhance their quality of life. Literacy is the core of education and providing these children with tools to become strong readers will benefit them, our school district and our community.”
Davidson created the program 15 years ago when he found out 61% of low-income families did not have books at home for their children. In 2008, he organized what is now an annual banquet to help raise funds to construct the book shelves and also cover other operating expenses.
The 82-year-old founder and the new chairman said they plan to still host the annual banquet in October. Though the initial planning stage is underway, plans could change based on health officials’ oversight in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic.
“The banquet will be held only when the coronavirus is under manageable control,” Plotkin told the Log Cabin Democrat. “Even then, published precautionary guidelines will be followed. The safety of attendees will dictate the scheduling decision, which will be announced to the public.”
While the Kiwanis Club has taken over project oversight, Davidson said many former Conway Bookcase Project committee members will still be heavily involved with the project, just as he also plans to be himself.
The project founder said he was thankful for the roles many have played in making this program possible through the years, including David Elms, who had built the bookcases for local children for a number of years, and the Marriage 10 Sunday School class at Conway First Baptist Church. The church group purchases children’s Bibles and bedtime story books each year for each child selected to participate in the bookcase project. Davidson also said he wanted to give resident Crystal Spellman a shout out for providing “reading buddies” to children through the years.
Patsy Desaulniers is known to give children involved in the program personalized bookmarks.
“Great things happen when our community works together for the betterment of all,” Davidson said.
Residents who want to support the program can do so by purchasing banquet tickets to help fund construction costs, or they can donate “new or lightly used books for boys and girls ages 4 and 5,” Plotkin said.
“The bookcase project relies on the county library system, members of the project’s governing committee and Kiwanis Club members for book donations,” he said.
Personalized bookcases and a starter kit of books are given to local children each year during a ceremony held at the Faulkner County Library in Conway.
Though the 2020 ceremony was canceled, project organizers helped create and deliver 50 bookcases to area children.
To support the program or to get more information on the Conway Bookcase Project, contact Plotkin via phone at 501-920-9429 or by email at rsplotkin@ conwaycorp.net.