SOUTH PORTLAND — Holy Cross School’s annual “Love Our Library” fundraiser for the Kathleen A. Wittmer Memorial Library is underway, as the library’s administrator continues her efforts to make sure kids have access to the library’s materials despite pandemic-related restrictions.

School Principal Cynthia Elwood said the library is funded entirely by donations and fundraising. The school’s annual fundraiser was announced earlier this month through local Catholic parishes. She said the fundraiser is popular among parents and parishioners.

“People ask for it on a regular basis,” she said.

Elwood said the library is named for a student at the school who died in the second grade of a rare and aggressive cancer in 2007. The library was dedicated in her name when it opened on March 3, 2008, Elwood said.

Elwood said the goal is to raise about $1,500. The money, she said, will pay to support library software, and to buy new books.

“We’d love to shoot for more, because obviously that would mean more books for the kids, but we’re grateful for what we get.”

Students haven’t been able to visit the library at Holy Cross School in South Portland during the pandemic, so the school librarian is taking books to the kids. Contributed / Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland

Since the pandemic broke out in March 2020, kids have been unable to visit the library, which is too small to safely occupy, but Karen Halverson is making sure students don’t miss the joy of reading a good book.

“It’s challenging, but you have to be creative,” said Halverson, an art teacher who doubles as the school’s library administrator.

Halverson is literally bringing the love of reading to classrooms by carrying books to them in a laundry basket. Just as adults place orders with municipal libraries for pickup so, too, do the schoolkids place orders for books they would like to check out. Halverson not only brings them books, but she also reads stories to the children.

Halverson said the kids look forward to the weekly visits, showing even more enthusiasm for the library’s materials than they have before. In the pre-K through fourth-grade classrooms, for example, Halverson said there are anywhere from eight to 26 kids, and all of them are checking out two books a week. She said that’s “at least double” the level of interest before the pandemic.

“This is the year that kids really love reading, and I can’t get enough books to them,” she said.

Halverson said she suspects that being cut off from direct access to the library due to the pandemic might be the reason.

“They kind of took it for granted, and now they don’t,” she said.

Kathleen Paladino, a former student and former teacher at the school now has three children who attend. She said her children, including Joey, 8, love being able to check out books through Halverson.

“I credit it to the library for actually putting books in his hand,” she said.

Joey said this week that he enjoys reading chapter books and just recently read the third installment in the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series.

He also likes it when the library comes to his classroom.

“They try to make it easy for us,” he said.

Paladino said she hopes the fundraiser will mean the school can acquire more books for the kids.

“We get some really great books through that,” she said.

Contributors can learn more about donating by visiting displays in the lobbies of St. Maximilian Kolbe Church in Scarborough, Holy Cross Church in South Portland, and St. Bartholomew Church in Cape Elizabeth, or call Holy Cross at 799-6661.

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