Elderly: Grant funds keep readers turning the page long into old age

Library materials were delivered to 250 people at their residence free of charge.

Clariss Techlow is a petite woman with silver hair and a warm smile.

Once a month she pushes a cart that's almost as tall, and weighs nearly as much, if not more, than she does through the halls of Bethel Home nursing facility in Oshkosh.

Her cart holds several yellow canvas bags from Oshkosh Public Library, each with customized reading, viewing and listening materials for residents who participate in the library's Home Delivery Service program.

The free service is offered to Winnebago County residents, with a library card, who are unable to travel to the library because of illness or disability or to senior citizens who have transportation barriers.

Any costs associated with the program in 2010 were funded solely by a grant from the Ladies Benevolent Society:Advocates for Older Adults (LBS:AOA), a field of interest fund of the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation.

There are about 200 people in Winnebago County who receive the service at their homes or residential nursing facilities. Each has supplied the library with a list of their favorite kinds of books, magazines, movies and music. And, each month, a volunteer keeps an inventory of what they've received and researches new materials each participant might like to receive next.

Clariss is a dedicated volunteer. Her commitment began in 1994 after her mother, a Bethel Home resident, passed away. She continued to visit her mother's friends and saw the need for them to have new things to read. The library staff connected her with the program.

"I do other volunteer work, but I like (the Home Delivery Service) the most because this is direct contact with people. It's really rewarding," Clariss says.

As Clariss hands Bethel Home resident Millie Musel a large, hard-cover science book, Millie smiles with approval. "Yes, yes I like that one," she tells Clariss.

For the residents at Bethel Home who participate in the Home Delivery Service, having a book to read every day is like having a lifeline.

"I say every day, what do people do with their time who don't read?" says resident Germaine Roth. "I always have a book with me...When we're at dinner and the meal is over, I pull out my book and read a few pages before I leave. It just fills the time."

Library volunteer Paul McHugh, whose service began after he retired in 1999, has forged friendships through the Home Delivery Service participants. He sees the program as providing a better quality of life.

"Without the program, the people who are homebound would not be able to get the materials and enjoy all the benefits of the library," he says.

With continued grant funding, the library will continue to provide the Home Delivery Service to hundreds of Winnebago County residents. Marketed mostly by word of mouth presently and a brochure in the library, additional funding would allow the library to promote the program and serve more

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