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story.lead_photo.caption The Dolly Parton Imagination Library of Saline County has partnered with Hurts Donut in Little Rock for a fundraiser. Pictured are, from left, a cardboard cutout of Dolly Parton; Carolyn Hoggard, a member of the Imagination Library Board of directors; Heather Shaw, a Hurts Donut shift leader; and Dana Poindexter, the vice president of Imagination Library of Saline County. - Photo by Staci Vandagriff

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library of Saline County has found a way to raise some dough. The program and Hurts Donut in Little Rock have partnered to raise money for the organization.

Imagination Library provides free books every month for the children of Saline County. Children who are signed up for the program are sent a book each month from birth to age 5, no matter their family’s income.

“We are always on the lookout for a fun fundraiser that will get people interested,” said Lisa Kennedy, one of the fundraiser’s organizers. “We had seen information on the Hurts Donut fundraiser, and since [the shop] is a little bit of a drive for most people, they wouldn’t mind paying a little extra money for us to bring it here and to support a good cause.

“You can purchase the Hurts Dozen or a maple bacon bar, and the proceeds will be used to buy books for Saline County children.”

Orders and money are due by 10 a.m. Friday, and orders can be placed online at https://forms.gle/EVrX3saXpbhzBdCr6.

Doughnuts will be available for pickup from 8-11 a.m. Nov. 15 at Class 101, 21941 Interstate 30, Suite 27, in Bryant. Kennedy said if a business, school or organization orders at least two dozen doughnuts, volunteers will deliver them.

“If you can’t pick up your doughnuts on the 15th, you must call us by noon to make arrangements, or we will donate the doughnuts,” she said.

A dozen doughnuts cost $20, and a maple bacon bar is $5. For every dozen doughnuts sold, Hurts will contribute $6.50 to Imagination Library.

“We are always trying to raise awareness,” Kennedy said. “There are still people who haven’t heard about Imagination Library and what it does, so we are trying to get the word out for our group, as well as raise funds and continue to operate.”

There are currently 1,292 children enrolled in the program in Saline County, Kennedy said.

“But there are at least 7,000 children from ages 0 to 5 in our county, so we are only reaching a fraction of them,” she said. “If we have more funds, we can open it up and advertise for more enrollment.”

It costs the organization about $25 for a year of books, and each child could potentially receive up to 60 books by the time they reach kindergarten.

“We are not a struggling affiliate,” she said. “We have never had a lapse in service and never had to unenroll anyone, and we will continue to have those funds to provide the books.”

She said the organization hasn’t set a goal for this year’s fundraiser but, ideally, would like to earn enough money to enroll more kids in the program.

“We just started taking orders [Tuesday] afternoon,” she said, “but we are trying to get the local businesses and city offices to hopefully purchase some doughnuts as a treat for employees.

“Really, we will be happy with any money that we raise.”

Kennedy, who writes grants for the organization, has been involved with Imagination Library since a friend of hers took her to a board meeting about three years ago.

“At that point, I had a son who was between 2 and 3 years old and was in the program, but I had no idea there was a local group that had to fundraise to pay for the books,” she said. “I thought it was all done through the national organization. But there is a hardworking set of volunteers who raise money, and we rely on financial support from local businesses, community organizations like Rotary, grants and individuals.

“I joined because I felt like I was giving back, since my son was receiving books every month,” Kennedy said. “I have seen firsthand the impact it has.

“It is exciting for them to get mail because the books have their name on it. And we know from studies that the more books in a home, the better a child will do at school with literacy and reading readiness”

The local chapter started in November 2011, and as of this month, the organization has shipped 99,849 books to children in the county.

“We have nearly reached 100,000,” Kennedy said. “We will reach the milestone in December, but we don’t know who will get the [100,000th] book. Back in 2011, when they were really trying to get the word out, I don’t think they ever thought they would reach 100,000. We have come a long way since then.

“And it’s all due to the support from the community. It is quite a milestone.”

Staff writer Sam Pierce can be reached at (501) 244-4314 or spierce@arkansasonline.com.

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