Thousands of books headed for bayou

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Routt and Moffat county residents have cleared a lot of room in their homes for new books.

The Steamboat Springs and Craig Rotary Clubs collected more than 35,000 books during their recent Books for the Bayou book drive to help restock Louisiana libraries destroyed by Hurricane Rita.

During the weekend, Rotarians and residents catalogued, boxed and loaded the last of 36,286 books into 623 boxes weighing an estimated 18 tons. The books and money will be sent to libraries in Terrebonne, a Louisiana parish ravaged by Hurricane Rita in the fall.

Rotarians and residents collected an additional 5,000 paperback books that will be shipped to Macedonia.

"The community just jumped in with both feet, and they were so responsive," Steamboat Rot-arian Mike Forney said.

About 10,000 homes and businesses were destroyed in Terrebonne parish, about 30 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 earlier this month.

"Not only was this a real pace-setter for us, but the people from Houma were absolutely overwhelmed with the hospitality here and the response from the community," Forney said. "It literally brought tears to their eyes."

Forney plans to be in Houma, the seat of the parish, with fellow Rotarians when the books arrive. The Rotary Clubs still are a few thousand dollars short of the $15,000 in cash they need to haul the books by semi to Louisiana.

One of the Terrebonne libraries in Houma was gutted after a 9-foot storm surge brought in sludge. Black mold spread throughout the library after the storm. Most of the library's 10,000 volumes were destroyed.

Steamboat and Craig Rot-arians easily exceeded their goal of collecting 25,000 books during the book drive. Nearly half of those books were collected by Steamboat school children. Par--tici-pat-ing scho--ols in-cluded Steamboat Springs Middle School, Steam---boat Springs High School, Soda Creek and Strawberry Park elementary schools, The Lowell Whiteman School and Lowell Whiteman Primary School and Christian Heritage School. Craig schools also collected between 2,000 and 3,000 books, Forney said.

-- To reach Matt Stensland, call 871-4210 or e-mail mstensland@steamboatpilot.com

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