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MCF reaches goal for ‘Match the Imagination’ funds

In less than 30 days, more than $60,000 has been raised to help put books in the hearts and hands of local children.

The Marietta Community Foundation announced the “Match the Imagination” campaign on Feb. 7 pledging a dollar-to-dollar match for donations to the Washington County Imagination Library up to $20,000.

This goal was quickly achieved and the foundation’s board of directors agreed to increase the match to $30,000. The new goal was topped on March 8 with a gift from the Edward Parrish Chapter Colonial Dames XVII Century Fund.

Community donations to the campaign have amounted to $30,344 thus far. With the foundation’s $30,000 match, $60,344 is being deposited into the fund.

Although the goal has been exceeded, donations of any size are still welcome. Gifts can be made online at https://mcfohio.betterworld.org/campaigns/matchtheimagination

These funds will enroll eligible children in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, of which the Marietta Community Foundation is the local affiliate.

The program ensures every child, regardless of income, can have access to books. Extensive research has indicated the program is popular in the communities where it’s implemented and shows promise in promoting changes in home literacy environments, children’s attitudes toward reading, and early literacy skills.

With support from The Owen Family Memorial Fund, the Foundation became an Imagination Library affiliate in 2017.

In 2019, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine allocated $5 million in the State of Ohio’s budget to be used for a statewide reading initiative called the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library. The initiative is in partnership with Dolly Partin’s Imagination Library and covers 50 percent of all Ohio affiliates’ monthly costs, allowing local program funding to go twice as far.

Relationships have resulted in 24,634 books having been mailed to more than 1,460 children in Washington County and counting.

Heather Allender, president and CEO of the community foundation, has witnessed the growth of the program over the last five years and is passionate about expanding the program even further.

“It has been incredibly moving to see so many people come together to support this cause,” she said. “Literacy impacts every aspect of our lives and the research shows this program makes a difference. It’s an amazing feeling to know we are giving children in our county a head start.”

Now that a significant amount of funding has been secured, the foundation is hoping to enroll as many eligible children as possible; allowing families to start or grow their own library at no cost to them.

The foundation and the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library are seeking ways to spread the word about the program so every eligible child can benefit from it.

In December 2021, 805 children were enrolled. As of Thursday, 952 children are enrolled and actively receiving the monthly books, and 511 have graduated from the program.

“I wish that this program was available when I was a child,” said Courtney Wentz, communications and program services director at the foundation. “Some of my fondest early childhood memories include my mom reading to my brother and me every night as we fell asleep. I truly think that if my parents hadn’t focused on building a library at home, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Any parent in Ohio can enroll their children under 5-years old in the program at no cost. Registration takes about five minutes and can be completed online at ohioimaginationlibrary.org/enroll]www.ohioimaginationlibrary.org/enroll.

While making their contributions, several donors commented on why they chose to support the campaign.

“This is an amazing organization and we are grateful our son can take part in it!” said Natalie Ball.

“GFWC Belpre Woman’s Club is proud to support the “Match the Imagination” campaign. Thank you for your efforts,” said Rose Logston.

“Cultivating a passion for reading and developing strong literacy skills at a young age is critical for life-long learning. We are happy to support,” said Jarrett S. Stull and Jillian M. Clark Stull.

“Our son loves this program and we want to help make it possible for others as well,” said Kris justice and Brandee Norris.

Organizers thanked the Marietta Friends of the Washington County Public Library, and Tri-State Roofing and Sheet Metal Company in collaboration with the Spartan Foundation for each of their $10,000 contributions.

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