40 Days of Summer a success

Aug 29, 2014

Thomaston — The 40 Days of Summer program at the Thomaston Public Library came to a close Aug. 15, with the bang of a colorful pinata exploding and the cheers of a dozen children as they scooped candy into their shirt-fronts. 40 Days of Summer, the library's fresh air, fun, and healthy lunch program for area children, began June 23. Led by a team of volunteers and staff members and supported by area organizations and individuals, Regional School Unit 13, the Federal summer food program, and local farms and grocers, the program was a smashing success.

Volunteers fed, read-to, and entertained attending children five days a week for 40 days. The program featured events and activities galore, but the best parts were the free play in the fresh air and sunshine, the wholesome food, and the harmonious interactions and high energy of the children.

The program would not have been possible without substantial community support, which the library received — beyond all expectations. For starters, a dream-team of hard-working, energetic volunteers assembled, led by Thomaston resident Diane Giese, whose brain-child the program was to begin with, and who wrote grants and solicited the lion's share of program funding. Giese was also an almost daily hands-on presence all summer. Eileen Skolds was another steady presence, a source of creative inspiration, and a model of patience, understanding, and hard work. The volunteer team was rounded out by Judy Riff, Karen Clarke, Meg Sawyer, and Vanessa Colesworthy, who worked in tandem with staff members Joanna Hynd and Alex Nimon. It would be hard to over-estimate the amount of planning, procuring, organizing, coordinating, hauling, lifting, toting, listening, comforting, and cleaning-up this fantastic group of program leaders did.

"We wanted to keep the program interesting and fresh, so we decided to theme our weekly activities," said Children's Librarian Joanna Hynd. Starting with "Playground Fun Week," the library invited special guests like Emily Lawry (who ran a kids' Zumba event) and Tim English (kids' Qi Gong). Other weeks featured puppet making, crafts, messy art, food, animals, and astronomy.

"Animal week was particularly chock full of special guest appearances," Sprague said. "Bittersweet Heritage Farms brought sheep and a goat, Evergreen Farms in Warren brought alpacas, Hollydachs Pet Store in Rockland brought a bearded dragon lizard, some birds, and a fish, the Pope Memorial Humane Society brought baby bunnies — I particularly liked the baby bunnies."

During "Astronomy Week," program leaders and John Meader of the Northern Stars Planetarium ushered about 20 eager young learners into an inflatable star lab, where they learned about Native American star legends, basic constellations, and star vocabulary.

"I am grateful the majority of the events were held outdoors," said Sprague. "We have been covered in facepaint, papier mache glue, pudding, molding sand, and water. Thankfully not all at the same time!" Messy art week featured finger-painting with pudding, an event so popular it prompted one attendee to announce, "This is the best day of my life!" Other projects included tie-dying t-shirts, painting rocks, and creating sculptures using molding sand.

Each meal sent by the RSU 13's federal summer food program was supplemented by fresh fruits, veggies, crackers, pretzels, and other healthy snacks. Over 70 children signed up for the program and over 700 lunches were served to attending children over the course of the 40 days.

The Thomaston Public Library would like to extend a hearty thanks to the many program sponsors and to all the people who donated their time and energy to making 40 Days of Summer a big success. Our front-line sponsors included Rockland Kiwanis, Patrisha McLean, and the Agnes Lindsay Trust, whose generous contributions provided area children and visitors a summer they will never forget. Many thanks go to Jane Farthing, Sue Howard, and the Strand Theatre for their publicity work, which attracted participants to the program. We would also like to thank Rockland Emblem Club, Rockland Hannaford, Thomaston Federated Church, Thomaston Walmart, Karen Clarke, Frances Hernandez, and Nancie Burton for their financial and gift-card donations. Many more donated materials and labor needed to make this event possible. Thanks to Ellsworth Building Supply for donating a picnic table, Bolduc Correctional Facility for donating dirt for the children's garden, David Hynd for donating the garden bed and assembling the picnic tables, Beth Heidemann for hula hoops and craft supplies, and Midcoast Federal Credit Union for lots of fun, free promotional materials. We also received many donations of food from local sponsors. Weskeag Farms donated a cornucopia of cucumbers, blueberries, strawberries, tomatoes, and bananas during our eight-week run. The First Baptist Church of Thomaston and Thomaston Grocery were also generous food donors. Many, many thanks to all our donors, sponsors, parents, and volunteers for everything they gave to this exciting, exhausting community effort. Thomaston Public Library is thrilled with the result!

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