Every child deserves the chance to not just read a book, but to keep it as their very own. Glacier Electric Cooperative and the Glacier County Library Memorial Foundation want to make that happen. And in just a few months, it is going to be a reality for children in this region.
The lady with the vision to put all this in motion, is Erin Nelson, Manager of Finance and Administration at Glacier Electric Cooperative (GEC). She knew of a program called Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library that is a “book gifting program that mails, free, high-quality books to children from birth to age five, no matter their family’s income,” as it is described on the Imagination Library website.
The books are paid for by any “local organization who wishes to provide the program to their community,” said Nelson. That is where both GEC and Glacier County Library Memorial Foundation come into play.
Nelson took her idea to the GEC Board of Directors, and they were “very eager to proceed with the program as we are always interested in finding new ways that we can serve our local communities. We recognize that not all children have the opportunities and access to educational resources that they should, and we felt this may help fill that gap.”
GEC partnered with the Glacier County Library Memorial Foundation, as they needed an organization that was already an established 501(c)3 non-profit. “Although GEC is also a non-profit, we are not considered a 501(c)3. We felt that the Glacier County Library Memorial Foundation was a perfect fit to partner with us on this program.”
GEC will be 100 percent responsible for funding of the program, making the Foundation a silent partner who will not be “contributing any funds towards the sponsorship of the program,” added Nelson.
The cost to GEC will be $2.10 per month, per child, which totals $25.20 a year for each child registered to participate in the program.
To pay for the program, Nelson said, “We will be utilizing the Unclaimed Capital Credits we have from over the years, which can be used for educational purposes.”
“GEC chose to sponsor the program in all communities that are within our service territory, which include, Cut Bank, Browning, East Glacier, Heart Butte, Babb/St. Mary, Sunburst and Kevin. There are a couple other communities that we also serve that we wanted to sponsor, but they are already being sponsored by another cooperative,” she said. “We want to provide the program to every family that we serve, that way we are able to give back to them in some way.”
Before enrollment can begin, Nelson pointed out there are still a few logistics to be worked out, but she is confident they will be ready to enroll families in the very near future.
“The program is not quite up and running officially. We have submitted all necessary documentation and are waiting on approval to begin the program,” Nelson said. “We will definitely be advertising soon to our communities on how they can sign their children up.”
Now for the fun part–how to enroll your child into the program so they can receive, mailed to their home, an age-appropriate book each month to have as their very own.
One way to enroll your child, who can be as young as a newborn, is to go online to imaginationlibrary.com and register directly on their website.
You can also complete a form from GEC that will be distributed in the newspaper, the Rural Montana Magazine or be picked up at GEC.
Or you can go online at glacierelectric.com and follow the link on their website to enroll. Remember, the program is only for children ages birth to five. Once they turn five years old, they are no longer eligible to receive books each month.
Enrolling is as easy as that and then, in a few months which is about how long it takes for the paperwork to be processed, an age-appropriate book will be mailed to your child.
“I think that the children receiving the books will be excited and eager to read their new book each month,” said Nelson. “They may not have many books of their own or have the ability to bring books home to read and this will solve that problem. It can also encourage siblings to read their new books together.”
Nelson continued, “Hopefully receiving a new book in the mail every month will also encourage an increased love of books and provide an at-home opportunity to expand their reading capabilities.”
According to the Imagination Library’s website, the program began in 1995 in Dolly Parton’s home county in East Tennessee. It is now partnered with the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Republic of Ireland. As of now, the program has gifted over 165 million books. They gift over one million books each month to children around the world.
Nelson’s daughter is enrolled in the program through Sun River Electric Cooperative. They live in Valier and were able to be part of the program with that cooperative. Her daughter has been signed up with the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library for several months and started receiving her monthly books just last December.
“The program was something that really sparked my interest as a parent,” said Nelson. “Our reason for doing this is to simply give back to our community and their children.”