Thompson Library holds Food for Fines drive

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Thompson - posted Mon., Jan. 6, 2014
Contributed
Bob Monahan and Kathy Keefe load up food supplies for TEEG at last year's Food for Fines drive. Courtesy photo. - Contributed Photo

The Thompson Public Library will hold its 12th Annual Food for Fines drive through the month of January. For every non-perishable food item donated, $1 in library fines will be forgiven. All the food collected will be donated to the Thompson Ecumenical Empowerment Group food bank.

The drive is designed to do two things. It will restore property to the library’s coffers and it will restore food supplies at TEEG, where Thanksgiving and Christmas food distributions have depleted much of the stock.

Library Director Alison Boutaugh said the goal of the drive is all about the community. “All we want is our stuff back,” she said. “The library’s collection is a collection for everyone in the community. That’s what we’re in charge of maintaining.”

That collection of approximately 55,000 items (books, magazines, newspaper subscriptions, DVDs, CDs, videotapes and online resources) was used by more than 52,000 people last year. Library staff answered 14,559 reference questions. Computers were used by 3,363 patrons. More than 6,600 patrons attended 367 programs.

But the drive, scheduled as it is in January, does so much more. According to TEEG Community Outreach Manager Carl Asikainen, the drive provides essential food supplies at a time when donations drop off significantly. “Once the holidays pass, there are no food drives till the fall,” he said. “Any drive, any donation, any incentive to get us stuff is really welcome.”

TEEG has nearly doubled the amount of meals it distributes from a year ago. In September 2012, 3,500 meals were given out. More than 6,000 were given out in September 2013. October numbers are moving in the same direction, Asikainen said. Their Christmas food distribution was the biggest TEEG has held. Forty more families needed food assistance at Christmas than at Thanksgiving. “Usually it goes down after Thanksgiving,” Asikainen said. “This year we went up. I was scrambling trying to figure out how to provide that extra food.

The same thing happened at the Daily Bread food pantry in Putnam, Access Agency and Friends of Assisi in Danielson, and Project Pin in Plainfield. “There are more chronic folks using our resources, and there are a lot of new families,” he said. “And we get a lot of calls for emergency food.”

TEEG food security worker Bob Monahan has seen the steep increase in demand. “It’s either heat or eat,” he said. “We’re seeing a lot of people we didn’t see before coming in for food. They cut back on fuel. It’s very expensive.”

Back at the library, fines cap out at $5. Any more than that and borrowing privileges are denied. Some people accrue larger fines. Late fees on movies are $1 per day, and that can add up fast. And if someone loses an item, they are expected to pay for replacement costs. “Life happens,” Boutaugh said. But she is willing to work on a case-by-case basis. “We really just want our stuff back. That’s it.”

Boutaugh said that fines on books and magazines will be done away with in the near future. That directive comes from a recent Board of Directors meeting. If that happens, Monahan and Asikainen hope it won’t deter people from donating food. “I really like the timing of the program,” Monahan said. “It restocks the pantry after all the giving of the holidays.”

Donations of tuna fish, powdered potatoes and canned stews are especially welcome. Damaged, glass and out-of-date items will not be accepted. Food will be accepted for fines only, not for lost items.


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