BEND AREA — The doors of Mason County Schools are closed, but the New Haven Public Library opened theirs to students on Monday.
In fact, both the New Haven and Mason libraries will be holding extra activities for the children every day this week from 1 to 3 p.m., as long as schools remain closed.
Lunch, games, crafts and stories all awaited the dozens of Bend Area children who gathered in New Haven Monday. Students also got to visit with some of their teachers and service personnel, as well, who are volunteering their time to help out.
The idea to open the libraries to students, while the work stoppage is ongoing, was the brainchild of Pam Thompson, county library director.
“I was thinking of something we, at the library, could do to help kids in the community during this work stoppage,” Thompson said. “I put it out to the staff at Mason and New Haven, and asked for ideas to get families in to the libraries.”
A local church will be serving a hot lunch to children all this week from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Lunches will be served through Thursday at the New Haven library, and Wednesday through Friday at the Mason library. Churches scheduled to provide the food are Vernon United Methodist, St. Paul Lutheran, Fairview Bible, Mason United Methodist and Northbend. The First Church of God of New Haven served a lunch of chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, cookies, drinks and fruit on Monday.
A few of the New Haven Elementary teachers and service personnel will take time off from their informational picket each day to read and interact with the children. Thompson said her idea to hold activities was announced on social media for just a short time when teachers began texting her, wanting to take turns reading and helping with crafts.
New Haven resident Amy Grate brought her son Brantlee, as well as his friend Konner, to the library for the activities. She said it is their weekly habit to go to the library on Wednesdays after school, and the boys were surprised to be going on a Monday.
“They were happy to get to come and eat lunch, and play with their friends for a while,” she said, adding it got them all out of the house.
Describing the libraries as the “heart of the communities,” Thompson said the main library in Point Pleasant is also holding extra activities, although lunches are not being served. Workers there have been contacting local daycares, inviting them to bring their school-age children on field trips to the library.
Library clerk Teresa Gibbs said the libraries have also served as drop-off points for the backpack nutrition program that provides food for students to take home. The food consists of ready-to-eat or heat-and-eat items.
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.