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Pro2Serve ups commitment to child-reading program

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By Cindy Simpson

Pro2Serve Inc. promised to match the first $5,000 in donations for Roane Imagination Library last year, kicking off the yearly fundraising endeavor.
This year, the company raised the bar and promised to match up to $7,500.

Roane Imagination Library is well on its way to reaching that goal, thanks to a gift of $2,000 by Material and Chemistry Laboratory Inc. given at a reception honoring Pro2-Serve.

“We consider Roane Imagination Library to be a foundational program, or said another way, a cornerstone to the education continuum for an individual, the beginning point of a lifetime of learning. So we are very pleased to make this ceremonial first contribution,” said Barry Stephenson of MCLinc.

Miss Northeast Tennessee Kassie Perkins of Harriman, who works at MCLinc, has, as her platform: “Keeping Children a Page Ahead, Supporting Childhood Literacy.”

It’s an issue she’s passionate about because of her younger sister’s struggles with reading.

“My parents are both educators, so they brought to my attention that there are many other children that have this problem,” Perkins said.
She said her sister never got excited about reading with her family, but she got excited about receiving her monthly books from Imagination Library. Perkins’ youngest brother more recently graduated out of the program.

“I can attest personally how important it was in my family,” Perkins said.
Roane Imagination Library board member Gary Aytes, also director of Roane County Schools, said the program is an asset.

“I just wanted to emphasize how important Imagination Library is to our students as we get them into the schools,” Aytes said, “We know that the biggest contribution for students to be able to read when they get to us is to have that language experience. That language experience comes from books, and that just makes such a difference.”

Roane State Community College director of library services Robert Benson has a 6-year-old daughter who went through the Oak Ridge Imagination Library program.

He described her as inquisitive, ready to learn, excited and imaginative.
Reading, including a now battered, but beloved edition of “The Little Engine that Could,” is a passion for her.

“Those are qualities we want to encourage and foster, and this is how we do that,” Benson said.

Fundraising letters were sent out prior to the reception, and the drive culminates June 10.

Roane County’s Imagination Library serves about 1,800 children registered.

“Eighteen-hundred children is about 70 percent of our population which Dollywood Foundation says is really great,” said Jill McMaster, president of Roane Imagination Library.

Imagination Library has a presence in 47 states, Canada and the United Kingdom.