'Fine' food program a success

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— There are 817 more items of food at the Lift-Up Food Bank thanks to local children who took the opportunity to clear up their library fines.

Last month, the youth services librarian at Bud Werner Memorial Library, Currie Meyer, initiated the Food for Fines program.

The deal was that anyone younger than 18 years old could pay off their library fines by donating food to Lift-Up throughout December. Each item of food brought in was worth $1 off the fine. The result of the food drive was 66 children clearing up $447 worth of fines. Overall, 817 items of food were donated.

"I'm really happy with the results," Meyer said. "As a nonprofit organization, we are giving to another nonprofit organization. I think that's pretty unique."

Meyer came up with the Food for Fines idea while reading an article in a professional journal about a similar program at another library.

Because about half of the children holding library cards at Bud Werner Memorial had outstanding late fines, she thought the food drive would be good to try.

The beauty of it, Meyer said, is people can clear up their fines and give to the food bank at the same time.

"I think people liked the option of paying off their fines and helping the community," she said.

Meyer got the approval for the food drive from Library Director Christine Painter.

"It's important for us to get the materials returned so others can use them," Painter said. "Our basic goal is to have library material being used and enjoyed by as many people as possible."

The library receives about $24,000 a year in late fines, from adults and children, which is an important revenue source.

"It's not a huge percent of our (nearly $900,000) budget, but it represents approximately all of what we spend on the children's books and materials," Painter said.

However, besides giving 817 items of food to Lift-Up, the drive allowed 66 children pay off their fines.

Painter said those children can now make use of the library again.

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