Editor’s Note: Those of us who work alongside other volunteers in the basement of the library, sorting thousands of books for resale, know firsthand just how much their commitment, passion, sense of humor and concern for others make it a wonderful and meaningful way to invest time and talents in the community.
Lori LaCroix believes in the power of books and reading. And, she does more than just talk about it: She lives it. Books have been an integral part of her life for as long as she can remember, with fond memories of venturing off to the Gaines Township Branch of KDL by herself as a young girl to seek magic and knowledge on the library’s shelves.
“My love for reading started in my home,” she said. “My father would linger over his coffee every morning for an hour enjoying the written word before heading off to work.” He modeled the attitude towards books and reading that would have a strong influence over her life.
“My husband, Mark, and I really believe in the importance of reading to children at a young age and to having them see adults reading,” she said. “When a parent can hold a baby and a book at the same time, it’s time to start reading to them.”
As a Friends volunteer, Lori decorates the Chapter Two bookstore to reflect changes in the seasons. She is also a frequent volunteer at book sales and helps out sorting books in the basement. “I really enjoy decorating the bookstore to help make it festive and welcoming.”
Lori also served as an unofficial liaison between the Cascade Friends group and the Department of Health and Human Services “Reading Corner Program for five years,” providing books to share with the families who sought services from that department.
“Unfortunately, the pandemic hastened the end of the program after 15 years of existence,” she said. But, she said she was glad that she could make an important difference while it lasted.
That love for books and for making them available to others had another opportunity for expression recently when a neighbor and fellow member of the Friends, Amy Hoyt, decided to move to the Holland Home Breton Woods retirement community and couldn’t take her Little Free Library with her.
“When I was honest with myself,” Amy explained, “I had to admit that, in the new setting, it wouldn’t be used as it was intended, serving all ages and interests in the community. Breton Woods already has two extensive libraries in their two high rise apartment buildings; there’s not a lot of foot traffic; and there are no kids.
“It became more important to me for the little library to be used as it’s meant to be, rather than for me to hold onto it because it’s been one of the most joyful and meaningful endeavors I’ve ever undertaken in my life.”
So, Amy stared searching for a home for it, preferably somewhere on her street, where the little library was already popular and had a “following” of dedicated users. And, that led her to Lori and Mark’s doorstep, just a few houses down from her own.
“They are both dedicated book lovers, and I’m absolutely thrilled that they decided to adopt it and officially become its stewards,” she said. “Knowing the little library will have such good stewards and that its established users will still have access to it, not to mention the many new folks who will discover it in the years ahead, warms my heart and makes parting with it bittersweet rather than painful.”
Amy said she and Mark feel the same way about it. “When we heard the little library was in danger of being orphaned, we couldn’t let that happen,” Lori explained. “We felt it was a very important part of our community and would help us continue to fulfill our commitment to books. Plus, since my husband is an avid reader, the little library gives him a ready avenue to share books with others once he has read them.”
So, how has the little library adapted to its new home? “It’s getting a lot of traffic,” Lori explained. “So, I’d say it has taken pretty well to its new home.”
Lori LaCroix (left) is seen with the Little Free Library's previous owner, Amy Hoyt.