Volunteers create comfort zone in Fort Worth’s Mabee Center
By: Solomon Moriba
It’s well established that children benefit from reading and from having books read aloud to them. But, when a family is homeless, books are often unavailable, much less provided in a cozy place for story time.
That’s why volunteers decided to create a reading library at The Salvation Army’s Mabee Social Service Center in Fort Worth, Texas. The cozy room is now stocked with hundreds of books and offers a great place for parents and volunteers to read to the 40 to 60 children who are typically sheltered with their families each night at the Mabee Center.
In addition, volunteers from St. Paul Lutheran Church in Fort Worth can now use the library as an inviting space for monthly visits from their comfort dogs, golden retrievers trained to interact with people who are suffering or in need. Children can enjoy snuggling up with a friendly canine companion, as well as reading their favorite books.
Fort Worth Salvation Army volunteers Concetta Ledig and Erik Ledig started the library with an initial donation of books and a few bookshelves. Then, volunteers Kenneth and Linda Majka donated hundreds of children’s books to fill the rest of the library. They also recruited members of Boy Scouts of America Troop 17, based at St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, to build and install bookshelves to fill the rest of the library – as part of an Eagle Scout project.
“Reading and books have always been important to my wife and me,” said Kenneth Majka, who is retired from Colonial Savings. “When I saw the Mabee Center’s existing reading room, I knew that with some help, it could be expanded to fulfill a need. Linda began her career as a children’s librarian at the Arlington Public Library and later became an elementary school teacher. Reading and story time have been a part of her life through the years.”
Beckie Wach, executive director for the Mabee Center, said that the library is already providing a positive experience for clients.
“One evening this week, I was walking through the shelter and saw a mom reading to her little one,” Wach said. “Her son would point at a picture of a duck or rabbit in the book and repeat the animals’ names after his mom. It is evident that this was her time to have some closure to their day that was positive and soothing to her toddler. Their world is so chaotic; it was a peaceful time that they both needed. Reading together creates a bond, and she was capitalizing on that moment to bond.”
Solomon Moriba is the public relations manager for Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.