The Washington Times-Herald

February 5, 2013

Former benefactor cuts ribbon on library

By Nate Smith
Washington Times Herald

WASHINGTON — Lena Dunn students got to use the library on Monday.

Normally, that would not be news. It was Monday due to an expansive renovation made possible by a former student.

Tom Emmons and his family cut the ribbon on the renovated library Monday while school administrators, teachers and students from the school participated in the celebration.

“It’s fantastic,” Emmons said. “Hopefully this will be something that will entice kids to want to stay in the library, to draw them in there and want them to be in here.”

Emmons is a former student of Lena Dunn who now lives in Houston and works for LINN Energy. He saw Washington’s need on a website, DonorsChoose.org, and then contacted Tara White, a librarian and media specialist for the school.

The two talked, and instead of just donating books, Emmons decided to do a lot more.

“What started as a simple request for books became something that will truly affect their lives and I am truly grateful for that,” White said.

The energy executive lined up donations from his company, Ziegler Cooper architects in Houston and Kimball International in Jasper. Emmons also donated enough funds for the library to purchase new carpeting, shelving, and technology for the library.

Locally, the school corporation received donations from Memering Farms, Hudson Office Supplies and Washington School Board member Peg Stephens. Others, including the Washington High School industrial arts class, donated its time for the library. Construction started in December and many at Monday’s ribbon cutting marveled at the library’s new look.

“The kids have been so excited the past few weeks just watching it come together and it’s just everything we hoped it would be,” White said. “It is just more user friendly for them.”

Lena Dunn Principal Brenda Butcher said the teachers, as well as the students, are very proud and appreciative of Emmons’ gift.

“We’ve been talking with the children about how they too can have bright futures,” Butcher said. “We’ve challenged them and said 'What can you do? Where are you heading and don’t forget where you come from.’”

Washington Superintendent Daniel Roach said it shows how one person can make a difference for many children.

“It certainly has been an opportunity for the children to see what it is all about to give back to your community,” Roach said. “I think it looks great.”

While the library will have a lot of new tools for the students, including new notebook computers and tablets, the students at Monday’s ceremony went to the books. Esteban Becerra, 10, really liked the new library.

“It’s better than the old one,” Becerra said. “It’s more organized and you can find books faster.

“This library has a lot more space and better furniture.”

Emmons, along with wife Stacey and daughters Faith and Avery, were also excited about the transformation. He came from the same situation as many of the students at the school.

“I went to Lena Dunn,” Emmons said. “I grew up in an environment where my family struggled financially and to be blessed enough to be able to give back and do this, it is important to do that when you can.

“No more worthy school in my mind than Lena Dunn.”