United Way of Central Kansas has been working tirelessly to bring Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to Great Bend and is well on its way to seeing this dream become a reality. With donations from local groups and organizations, numerous banks, and individuals, they are still on track to kick off this program in 2017. Most recently, United Way of Central Kansas was awarded a grant from Midwest Energy.
The Midwest Energy Community Fund Impact Grant reviews requests that enhance the community as a whole and demonstrate community support. Its Community Fund Committee felt that Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library met these standards based on the amount of support UWCK has received from the community, and the impact that Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has on childhood literacy.
Once this program is officially kicked off, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library will provide a free book, every month, for children ages 0-5 who enroll in the program at the Great Bend Public Library. Studies of the Imagination Library have shown a positive and significant impact in regards to childhood early language and math development, regardless of demographic or socioeconomic factors. By increasing a child’s access to early literacy materials, the child is more prepared for kindergarten. Kindergarten readiness is linked to future academic achievement and success later in life, which can impact the community in terms of better test scores throughout schooling, lower high school drop-out rates, and lower unemployment rates. The Imagination Library also has been shown to encourage parents to read to their children, increasing bonding time and laying the groundwork for high quality child-parent interactions and increasing the consistent involvement of the parents in the child’s learning and development.
Midwest Energy has been a longtime payroll deduction donor to United Way. It has been a Pacesetter Company since the program’s inception in 2015, including being the Bronze Per-Capita Giving Company for 2015.
“With this grant, it brings us closer to bringing Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to Great Bend,” said Julie Bugner-Smith, executive director of United Way of Central Kansas.