Kenadi Jean Weis Foundation donates 100 books to Little Free Libraries in Spearfish

From left, Betty Lenners, Kelly Weis, Kirby Schultz, BHSU student Shenae LaCroix, and Lori Deibert, stand Thursday at the Little Free Library in Salem Park with the Kenadi Jean Weis Foundation’s donation of 100 books to Little Free Libraries in Spearfish. The location is one of 10 bookhouses installed through LaCroix’s Make a Difference Initiative scholarship. Pioneer photo by Kaija Swisher

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SPEARFISH — There’s 100 new books circulating in the Little Free Libraries around Spearfish, thanks to a recent donation from the Kenadi Jean Weis Foundation.

“Kenadi loved reading books, especially turning the pages all by herself, and we never missed an opportunity to pick up a book and read to her,” said Lori Deibert, a board member of the Kenadi Jean Weis Foundation (KJWF), named in honor of her 5-year-old granddaughter who passed away in 2014 from infantile spasms, an age-dependent form of epilepsy often associated with an anoxic brain injury at birth. Nonverbal and requiring the use of a wheelchair, Kenadi inspired her family to create the foundation, which has the mission “To assist all special needs children and their families achieve fulfilled lives through support, resources, respite care, volunteerism, and advocacy.”

“Over time, our family not only purchased several new children's books but were bequeathed many also,” Deibert said. “In her memory, we established Kenadi's Library with our volumes and began donating new books to the elementary schools, Grace Balloch Memorial Library, and offering them to children in our own community.”

Betty Lenners, Kenadi’s teacher at Mountain View Elementary School, loved reading to Kenadi and made a contribution of new children’s books to Kenadi’s Library.

“Books are very important, that’s all there is to it,” she said.

The KJWF donated 100 new hardcover and paperback books representing a range of genres and presented them Thursday at Salem Park, one of the locations of 10 recently-installed Little Free Libraries “to help enhance and sustain the … project and to promote the love of reading for the children of Spearfish,” Deibert said.    

The idea of placing the 10 newest Little Free Libraries around town came from Black Hills State University student Shenae LaCroix, who for two years in a row has received a Make a Difference Initiative scholarship to implement a community project. In 2015, LaCroix used the funds to create YJ (Yellow Jacket) Friends, a BHSU student organization that pairs college mentors with adults with disabilities, and in 2016, the group partnered with their mentees at Northern Hills Training Center to create 10 wooden bookhouses to put in public places around Spearfish.

“Dolly Parton said that ‘the seeds of dreams are oftentimes found in books,’ and what better way to get them out then by making them available at the Little Free Library bookhouses around town,” Deibert said of the foundation’s desire to donate the books. “Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are, so pick up a book and take a journey,” she added.

“This is amazing,” LaCroix said of the donation. She has followed the KJWF and has been inspired by its work.

“Now we get to have a little bit of Kenadi with us,” LaCroix said as some of the new books were placed in the library at Salem Park.

Little Free Libraries, a nonprofit cofounded in 2012 to “promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide and to build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity and wisdom across generations,” has the motto of “Take a Book, Return a Book.” There are more than 40,000 registered around the world, and those created by YJ Friends are located in Spearfish City Park, Lions Park, Salem Park, Heritage Park, Sandstone Park, Spearfish Rec and Aquatics Center, on the corner of Grant and Main streets near Blackbird Espresso, and at the old city hall on Main Street at Leones’ Creamery. The libraries have a plaque on each that states, “Making a Difference One Book at a Time! Made with love by: Northern Hills Training Center & YJ Friends. To Donate to the Make a Difference Scholarship: http://bhsu.edu/Alumni/GetInvolved/Donate.”

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