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Not For Profit: Friends of the St. Thomas Public Libraries

Aug. 27, 2006 — Denisha Rosario said Saturday afternoon that the most important experience she had working at the Enid Baa Library this summer was "feeling a part of."
Though the summer programs taught many things, the feeling of being "a part of" was evident as the Friends of the St. Thomas Public Libraries (FOSTPL) honored the 95 youngsters who participated in this year's summer reading program, "Get Energized to Read."
Rosario, a 14-year-old 10th-grader at Charlotte Amalie High School, said the summer had been "very overwhelming." She spoke briefly to the room, crowded with youngsters from ages three to 18. She told them about how important community service is and how good it made her feel. She said, "You have to give back to the community."
Rosario worked in the two-month "Get Energized" program, which ran from June 19 to August 19. She said she read to the youngsters and learned how to sort the books. "I would explain how to check the books in and out," she said, "and help with whatever was needed." She gave a big smile, "I was part of the staff." And she will help out during the coming school year, too, she said.
Children's librarian Kirstin Brunn said of her protégé: "She is a jewel, and she is so humble." Rosario, along with Brunn and head librarian Rachelle Shells, were presented with brilliant flower bouquets by Judy Edmeade, summer reading program coordinator.
Edmeade taught biology at Addelita Cancryn Junior High School for 18 years, was assistant principal at Lockhart Elementary School and is now assistant principal at E. Benjamin Oliver.
She became involved with FOSTPL in 2001 after it was re-established following a dormant period.
The driving force behind the group's re-emergence was Carol Lotz-Felix, now an honorary board member. The group is celebrating its 25th anniversary next year. T-shirts given to the summer students are emblazoned on the back with a colorful anniversary logo.
One of the key players behind the group's inception was Ellen MacLean, an honorary member today. MacLean recalled Sunday how the group came into being. "We needed those little extras the library needed to enhance summer activities," she said. "For instance, safe scissors, cutting paper, things like that. Requisitioning them from the government is so time consuming. Then, we would sponsor local storytellers and puppeteers, who liked a check right away.
"We would hold book sales in front of the Post Office and sell refreshments to raise funds. After a time, people who had done it for years and years got sort of tired out. We weren't applying for grants, and overall it sort of died down. Then, along came Carol, and she gave the program new life."
In fact, Lotz-Felix is a familiar sight around the island, dragging boxes of books into and out of post offices, restaurants and other locations for a program called "Free Bookshelves."
Today FOSTPL is actively involved in the lives of the island's youngsters. In addition to the summer program — which involves 95 students from 28 public and private schools — it runs Literacy Project, a Saturday Children's program that familiarizes youngsters with the library and teaches crafts as well as reading, Kwanza celebrations in December, and book collection and redistribution.
Edmeade shared an impressive statistic: "More than 50 percent of the island students now have an Enid Baa library card."
Jason Budsan, FOSTPL advocacy chair, enthused over the group's Day Care Literacy Project. "It's so important," Budsan said, "for a child to own a book." Committed to the concept that most of what children learn is learned before four years of age, Penny and Henry Feuerzeig sponsor the project, which supplies books into day care centers for the children, along with volunteers to read to the youngsters.
"My first book," Budsan said, "was 'Where the Wild Things Are.'" The children's classic still lives in Budsan's memory. "To this day, I will never forget the feeling of owning my own book and that somebody took the time and effort to give it to me. It just opened up a whole new world."
Edmeade shares an equal love for books. Her enthusiasm was almost palpable as she strode around the small children's library Saturday, admonishing the youngsters to stand up and tell about the books they read this summer.
The children sat mute, their eyes wide. But under Edmeade's prodding, one by one, they got up to tell about their reading adventures. The program has four age groups ranging from three to 18.
"Now, I want you to tell me about what you read, and I want you to use a very big word about how you feel about the book. What's that word?" Finally, a "recommend" came from the back of the room.
Janneicie Munraine said she would recommend "Dragon Rider" because "it's about a boy who meets a dragon and it's very interesting."
The students had to hand in a written report on each book they read. A 10-year-old from Prophesy Elementary School read Herman Melville's "Moby Dick," but said he wouldn't recommend it because "my friends would want more action."
A 13-year-old from Agape Jr. Academy, however, heartily recommended "The Ozone Layer."
"It was an insight for me," the student wrote. "It showed me the things that are happening in the world. It made me slightly sad, but it's still a good book."
Shells said whole families had participated in the program over the summer in constructing energy-themed projects. She said they built a solar car, a solar oven and a fuel cell car model.
Editha and Dale Carty, and their sons, Dale, 14, and Ezra, 12, attended the summer project. "It was fun for everybody," Dale Carty said, "very challenging."
The students were presented with $20 gift certificates from Dockside Bookshop, a book bag filled with five books and schools supplies, and the T-shirt.
The summer programs were sponsored by the J. Epstein Foundation for Enhanced Learning, Billy D's Tees and the Dockside Bookshop.
The group always needs volunteers. That was a plea in this year's annual address given by J. J. Estemac, FOSTPL president. Volunteers are needed for everything from crafts project leaders and hospital book cart operators to dusting the library bookshelves. To apply, see fostpl.org.
Shells said Saturday the organization is very excited about the proposed new library in Tutu, which has been a dream for years. In June, the Public Finance Authority authorized $9 million in additional funding for the construction of a new library on St. Thomas.
Editor's note: The Friends of St. Thomas Public Libraries organization informed the Source that it does not give books to the children it visits in its Day Care Literacy Project. Packets of five books are taken to centers for the teachers to read to the children. The next week those books are exchanged for another packet of five books.
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