Rotary collects 15,000 books

Books for the Bayou drive continues until Saturday

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— Local Rotarians are on their way to collecting 25,000 books for Louisiana libraries ravaged by Hurricane Rita.

More than a dozen people volunteered for a day of backbreaking work Saturday to collect and box 15,427 books that already have been collected in Steamboat Springs. Collection locations were set up at several local businesses. Half of a storage trailer was loaded with about 320 book-filled boxes.

The Books for the Bayou drive will continue until Saturday.

The books will be shipped by semitrailer to libraries in the Terrebonne Parish.

"This will pretty much put the libraries back together," said Jim Steinberg, a Steamboat Rotarian who helped organize the book drive.

About 10,000 homes and businesses were destroyed in the parish located 3about 0 miles southwest of New Orleans. Amy Whipple, the assistant director of the Terrebonne Library Parish System, came to Steamboat with Terrebonne Rotarian Tom Watkins to kick off the book drive.

"It's very emotional to think about the outpouring of support for this project," Whipple said.

One of the Terrebonne libraries where the books will be headed was gutted after a 9-foot storm surge brought in sludge and black mold started to grow. Nine days after the storm, Whipple said workers found that most of the library's 10,000 volumes had been destroyed.

Whipple said some of the books would be donated to five schools in the parish and other libraries in the region.

While packing books on Saturday, Whipple said they found one book that served as volunteers a small reminder of home. It was a new Cajun cookbook.

"I thought I really should have left it here," Whipple said. "But no, we're bringing it back with us."

Steinberg said after the hurricanes hit he sent nearly 100 e-mails to Rotary organizations in the Gulf region offering to help with long-term projects. The Steamboat and Craig Rotaries teamed up with the Houma Rotary Club in Louisiana to rebuild the library collections. The Rotary organizations also are collecting donations to help the libraries purchase new computers and other equipment. More than $10,000 already has been raised.

"It's a tremendous feeling," Watkins said. "It says a lot about the people up here."

Organizers expect that donations collected from Routt and Moffat Counties schools will help them reach their goal of 25,000 books.

"We've been getting indications that the kids have been really eager, picking up books," Steamboat Rotarian Mike Forney said.

An added incentive has some students going door to door in an effort to collect the most volumes, Forney said. The grade in each school that collects the most books will receive a pizza party.

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