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A Grand Debut for Library’s Food for Fines

Boys and Girls Club recipient of library’s generosity

It is said it takes a village to raise a child. In its own quiet and loving way, Hicksville has created a Christmas village for its neediest sons and daughters.

Thanks to the Hicksville Library’s Food for Fines campaign and its generous donors, the Hicksville Boys and Girls Club received more than 100 pounds of food, all non-perishable goods, collected between Nov. 21 and this past Monday, Dec. 19. During that time period, the library waived fines up to and including two dollars a patron for a week in exchange for a donation.

Library Director Elizabeth Goldfrank said she is “greatly appreciative to the staff and community residents.” In an interview at the library last Friday, she spoke proudly of her staff for making this first year of the program so successful.

“One of our staffers,” she said, “called my attention to an article in a food magazine that reported on the success that a library out west had with the Food for Fines.” She glowed when she recalled her response: “I like this!”

And it appears the community liked it too.

“Everyone is involved,” said Roseann Acosta, head of the library’s public relations. “It’s a great program,” she said, “one that raises awareness” of a pressing community need. Smiling gently throughout our interview in her bright, cheerful office, she told of one young man, in his twenties, who thanked the library. ‘You made me feel good,’ she recalled him saying before he paid his fine and returned to donate food. She said he was far from the only person to donate in addition to paying their fine or not having one to start with.

“People have done a lot of good,” Roseann said as she pointed out with pride that Food for Fines is a national program and that Hicksville’s library is one of the very first in Nassau County to support it. An Internet search revealed Food for Fines campaigns take place at libraries in states including Massachusetts, Illinois, Texas and Nevada and at universities including Northwestern and the University of Pennsylvania. Besides its success, Hicksville’s effort, Roseanne said, proved to be a “great morale booster” and she lauded its recipient, The Boys and Girls Club, as “a great organization.”

Library Director Elizabeth Goldfrank said the club was selected not only because it is community based but also because she said of Executive Director Tom Bruno, “I know the difference he makes for the kids.”

In his small office on the second floor of his Old Country Road headquarters, in a large white house with brown trim, Bruno spoke of families that “have fallen on hard times” and are “in desperate need.” He said the donated food is gratefully accepted for their Adopt a Family program and he expressed appreciation to the Hicksville Fire Department for all its help in contacting Santa to help personally distribute the food.

The library, the fire department, generous residents and his Boys and Girls Club composed what Bruno called “one community working all together.”

“We try to teach kids values,” Bruno said as he reflected on the young people he sees every day as “a really nice group of kids.” “We are an after school recreation program,” he said. But come five o’clock the recreation turns to study. The first floor drop-in lounge, where high school and middle school students come after class to play the piano, foosball, billiards or other games or relax on the comfortable sofas to read, or work in the computer room, becomes a classroom when Power Hour begins and the focus turns to homework. In a family environment, “we have a group of kids who teach each other,” Bruno said. It is much like home, where one sibling helps another. He spoke of the time as “a peer-tutoring program.” Along with their studies, students have goodies to munch on. “We try to give healthy snacks,” he said.

Library public relations spokeswoman Roseann Acosta said the items collected include rice, beans, vegetables of all varieties, macaroni, sauce, soup, peanut butter, tuna and canned fruit and also pretzels and potato chips.

Library Director Elizabeth Goldfrank pointed out, “You don’t give yourself treats when you are hungry.”

People of all ages donated and people of all ages will be the recipients thanks to the Boys and Girls Club Adopt A Family.

The club works all year long to brighten the lives of its young people. Bruno spoke enthusiastically of the trips to sporting events and other places. “We are giving kids an opportunity to have fun.”

Funding, Bruno said, is the most urgent need of the organization that began in 1972 as the Hicksville Teenage Council, as he expressed appreciation once again to the library and its efforts.

Generous food pantries (at the United Methodist Church and St. Ignatius, for example) and other helping hands form a fabric of giving that serves the Hicksville community all year long. This latest chapter, appropriately written by the library, will be conducted again. “I just think the library is an integral part of the community,” Roseann Acosta said as she thanked everyone for becoming involved. “You are,” she said, “making a difference.”