Laurel Ingram is retiring from her position as chairperson of the bookstore and sorters on August 1 after more than nine years of innovation, leadership and success with the Cascade chapter of Friends. Laurel says it’s time to listen to her body and not just her heart. And, while we understand and respect that decision, we will most certainly miss her stabilizing presence, commitment to efficiency and dedication to our mission.
Laurel joined the Cascade friends in February of 2013, shortly after moving to Grand Rapids. Before that, she helped found a Friends group in 1981 for the Genoa City Library in Wisconsin and became its president for 16 years. She remained active there until relocating to Sterling, IL in 2001, where she volunteered for a Friends group for another six years until it disbanded. So, she has been a Friend in one place or another for more than 29 years.
She is an acknowledged and respected leader in the Cascade Friends. Her innovation and commitment helped grow the “basement volunteers” from 12 to 40 trained volunteers in less than 18 months. She has expanded the shelving capacity; introduced greater efficiency through specialization of functions; pioneered the sale of books online, which has grown to annual revenues of nearly $40,000; organized a Marketing Team to leverage the experience of several business-oriented volunteers; implemented customer service enhancements (e.g., credit card payment and the “Request a Book” program; and created a top-tier training program to attract new volunteers and increase their productivity. And, that is just scraping the surface.
Laurel is an advocate and community liaison for literacy. Under her leadership, the “basement volunteers” got a library started for Alcoholics Anonymous in Grand Rapids and routinely donated books to keep its shelves filled. The group sent books to the Children’s Room at Social Services downtown, where many children receive the first books of their lives. They have supported KDL drives like “Books for Texas” and the airport program. They also donate books to Gaylord House, Ronald McDonald House, Sand Lake Library and other worthwhile causes (e.g., a book program at a charter school). She and her team are excellent ambassadors for KDL in the community.
In 2018 Laurel won the coveted Patricia J. Kaiser Volunteer of the Year Award, which is awarded annually to one volunteer throughout the Kent District Library system who consistently goes the extra mile in advocating for and helping KDL achieve its mission within the community. No one better exemplifies those qualities than Laurel.
Marge Ohlman Assumes Sorters/Bookstore Chair Position
Marge Ohlman, who has served as Laurel’s assistant manager for many years, will take over as the chairperson of the sorters and bookstore. Having worked side-by-side with Laurel for seven years and been part of the many enhancements to procedures and training, she will provide valuable continuity for the basement volunteers.
“Marge has been my assistant since 2015 and will make a wonderful chairperson,” Laurel said. “it has been an honor for me to work with everyone as chairperson, and I want to thank everyone for all the support and hard work they have invested to help the Cascade Friends become a very efficient, smooth-running operation.
Laurel said she may be stepping down as chair, but that doesn’t mean she plans on disappearing entirely. “I now will be volunteering in the basement once a week.”
On behalf of all the volunteers who have benefitted from Laurel’s leadership and friendship, I want to express our deep appreciation and gratitude and wish her good health and success in whatever comes next on her amazing voyage.