Birthday fundraiser benefits Camden Public Library

By Susan Mustapich | May 10, 2018
Photo by: Susan Mustapich Dawn Emery asked friends and family to donate to the Camden Public Library for her birthday in April.

CAMDEN — A Camden woman's birthday wish is based on her belief in making the community a better place, one small action at a time.

When Dawn Emery asked friends and family on Facebook to contribute to the Camden Public Library Fund for her birthday, she admits it took a bit of bravery. Even after working for 10 years as a professional fundraiser - raising millions of dollars for the American Cancer Society in Portland - asking for money from family and friends for an organization of her choice was a first.

For a number of years, Emery has moved away from thinking about the special things she would like to do on her birthday, and instead has asked others to take a simple action to benefit someone else.

"The past five or so years on my birthday, I asked my friends to do something, whether it's smile at a stranger or do something nice to help someone," she said.


For Emery, doing things for others is part of her family's tradition.

"Community fundraising and helping other people to make the world happier and healthier is something that I love, and that I enjoy. It's a common thread in my family. I feel like we're all brought up to think about helping other people and how you can do that in big ways and small ways."

April not only marked a birthday for Emery, but a return to her hometown of Camden, after living and working in Portland for a decade. She is currently enrolled at the University of Maine Augusta, to complete her teacher certification, and has recently been hired as Director of the Penobscot Bay YMCA Kinder-Camp this summer.

Being back in a small community has inspired her to think about how "you can really see the impact" of fundraising and helping others.

Her birthday request was for a donation to the Camden Public Library Fund, or for those who couldn't make a financial contribution or who are not connected to Camden, to "please read to a child you know, or buy a book to donate to your local public or school library."

"Libraries remain as one of the most valuable community assets available to ALL kids for FREE. When a child needs inspiration, information, or comfort the library is always there!" she wrote.

Her goal was to raise $100, and she happily raised $240, without pressuring anyone or sending repeated requests out on Facebook. About half of the donations came from people in the area, and the other half from friends and colleagues from Portland, and even a friend in Georgia.

Coming home to Camden also means a chance for Emery to get back to her roots, and the Camden Public Library is a part of that. She loves the Walsh History Center, where she has been researching tidbits about her grandparents, and learning about "how things used to be here." She enjoys the beautiful surroundings of the library, browsing the shelves with her daughters, and visiting the Children's Room. She finds inspiration in the books on the library's shelves, and enjoys discovering new subjects she would like to learn about. She deeply believes in libraries as a community resource, and in the bigger picture, as repositories of the knowledge of all of human existence.

"The library is not just a place for kids," she said. "Anything that a person, old or young, wanted to learn or explore, they could come here and find some kind of resource."

Emery did not raise funds for the library to draw attention to herself, and hopes that her effort to collection donations sends the message that "being involved in community work doesn't have to be hours a week. It doesn't have to be a big, long drawn-out fundraising campaign." She hopes that everyone will see that there's "an opportunity for you to do something you choose."

Her hope is that someone who reads about her fundraising story will "figure out what institutions or organizations really matter to you, and find a way to support them. Maybe it's volunteering, maybe it's doing a birthday fundraiser. Or just coming in and seeing if there is some way you can help."

Comments (1)
Posted by: Robert Jean | May 10, 2018 09:42

Thank you, Dawn!  Whether you believe it or not, you have inspired many others to take a close look at areas of need and spring into action. You will be a great role-model for your future students!

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