Volunteers from the GFWC New Tampa Junior Woman’s Club installed and maintain a Little Free Library outside the New Tampa Family YMCA. Everyone is invited to stop by to borrow a book or share one.

Getting books into the hands of those who want to read them has gotten a little easier for New Tampa residents, now that a Little Free Library has been installed and opened to the public outside the New Tampa Family YMCA.

Raequel Tomsich, who serves as vice president of communications & public relations for the GFWC (General Federation of Women’s Clubs) New Tampa Junior Woman’s Club (NTJWC), explains that a Little Free Library is a no-cost book exchange for the community. She says it’s part of a global phenomenon, with more than 80,000 of these community exchanges registered in 91 countries around the world at LittleFreeLibraries.com.

Raequel says she fell in love with the idea of a Little Free Library when she saw one while on vacation in Bryson City, NC, last summer. When she returned home, her New Tampa Juniors club was discussing ways to support a statewide project of the GFWC called Book Heroes that aims to get books into the hands of 10,000 children each year.

The GFWC New Tampa Junior Woman’s Club is a local nonprofit group that is part of an international organization committed to community service. Its members volunteer in the local community, raise money to support the club’s efforts, and meet monthly to discuss business, complete a hands-on service project, and plan upcoming events.

Club members decided to install a Little Free Library in Tampa Palms to support the statewide reading initiative.

They researched plans and obtained a GFWC Focus on Literacy grant provided by the Procter & Gamble Company to help with expenses. 

Little Free Libraries can look very different, but most are some variation of a wooden box. The New Tampa Juniors chose plans that resemble a house shape, with two shelves inside for books. It’s raised off the ground on a post.

It’s also a personal project for Raequel, who says her father used to do woodwork and taught her husband, Mike, who has now used those skills to build the library structure. Her kids helped to install it.

“I’m so proud of it,” she says.

Club members collected books for children and adults alike. They were thrilled when the New Tampa Family YMCA, located at 16221 Compton Dr. in Tampa Palms, agreed to allow the Juniors to install the library on its property.

The library works on the honor system and anyone can take a book or leave one.

“It’s our hope that people who borrow books also will contribute,” says Raequel. “It doesn’t matter if the same book makes it back, but it’s just great if you can take one and share one.”

Raequel says response has been great and that books are borrowed several times a day. She is a member of the YMCA and visits frequently and says she can tell the Little Free Library is being used by the number of books that are taken from it each time she visits. She also sees books being added to the library, and hears from the YMCA staff that their members tell them they like and appreciate the library.

“I don’t think we could have picked a better location,” says Raequel. “You don’t have to be a member to use it, but the Y has so many members. And now, with summer camps at the Y, more people who didn’t know it was there before will see it and start using it.”

The club is committed to ensuring that the library is maintained and restocked as necessary. Raequel says she and other club members add books to the library several times a week.

Because books are borrowed so frequently, they need to be replenished often. Books can be donated by leaving them in the library outside the YMCA. They can also be donated by contacting the club through its Facebook page at Facebook.com/GFWCNewTampaJuniors or find contact information at GFWCNewTampaJuniors.org.

“I love reading and the idea of getting books into the hands of kids,” says Raequel. “Especially in today’s world, with everyone usually on their electronics, it’s good to get people reading.”

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