United Way Bookmobile donation

Pictured are, front row, from left: Raeann Bates, Bookmobile; Reci Shook, Sales Director at Courtyard Marriott and UWSCKY Board President; Charlotte Keeney, Director at Pulaski County Public Library; Crystal Cox, Executive Director, UWSCKY. Second Row: Rhee Perry, COO at Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital; Robert Parker, CEO at Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital; Dr. Hubert Schroer, Principal at Hopkins Elementary School; Jordan Carter, CPA at Harris & Associates, PSC; Randy Reynolds, VP/COO at First and Farmers National Bank

Sometimes the best stories have twist endings.

While it’s true that for most grants, changing the plot in the middle of the story is against the rules, in the case of the United Way of South Central Kentucky, they were allowed to change the focus of the grant awarded to it from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.

To be fair, the change was only to add more books.

That’s how the Pulaski County Public Library’s Bookmobile gained 104 more books on Wednesday.

Originally, the local United Way’s $2,000 grant was earmarked for buying books for its “Real Men Read” program. That’s where positive male role models read to elementary students in their classrooms one day every month, according to United Way’s Executive Director Crystal Cox.

Volunteers spend around 30 minutes reading and discussing a book, as well as talking about their careers.

However, Cox said her organization is “good at stretching money to get as much as possible with what we got. So, we were able to get even more books than what we originally planned for.”

After having bought all of the books needed for “Real Men Read,” she found that she still had grant money left over. In an effort to find a use for the leftover funds, Cox went back to the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and asked about amending their plan to buy books for the Bookmobile as well.

The new plan was quickly approved, she said.

“They were really easy to work with. They’re really accessible. It was just a matter of a phone call and us talking through what we had done so far, and submitting an amended budget explaining our idea for the use of the remaining part of the grant,” Cox said.

“They were very quick to respond and approve it, because it lines up with their mission. They really want to promote literacy.”

Even better, the books chosen for the Bookmobile focused on elevating Black voices and promoting Hispanic heritage, she said.

Some of the books were biographies for people like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ruby Bridges, while others were bilingual, which helps promote parents who may not speak fluent English reading to their children, whether those children likewise cannot speak fluent English or whether they can.

“[The Dollar General Literacy Foundation] also knows there is importance in looking at literacy through an equity lens, and they want to make sure that children are seeing themselves in the books that they read. So they appreciated our focus on that,” Cox said.

While the “Real Men Read” program currently takes place only in Somerset and Pulaski schools, Cox said that after its success, she hopes to mirror the program throughout the United Way of South Central Kentucky’s region. If anyone is interested in being involved in the program or wants more information about it, they can contact the United Way at info@uwscky.org or 606-679-2974.

Carla Slavey can be reached at cslavey@somerset-kentucky.com

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