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Parkersburg Woman’s Club, Vienna laundromat set up Free Little Library

Representatives of the city of Vienna, Wash and Go and the Parkersburg Woman’s Club open the first Free Little Library in a laundromat in West Virginia, part of the nationwide Laundromat Library League, at the Wash and Go in Vienna. From left, Woman’s Club President Judy Parrish, Mayor Randy Rapp, Susan Gardner and Jenny Blair of the laundromat committee of the Woman’s Club, Wash and Go owner Charlie Schilling and laundromat project chairman Jane Hardman. (Photo by Jess Mancini)

VIENNA — The GFWC Parkersburg Woman’s Club has established the first Free Little Library in a laundromat in West Virginia.

With the enthusiastic support of owner Charlie Schilling, the Wash and Go on Grand Central Avenue has joined the Laundromat Library League, a nonprofit all-volunteer organization dedicated to providing the free libraries filled with children’s books in laundromats.

Many times parents are in the laundromats with their children, Woman’s Club President Judy Parrish said. The libraries include numerous books suitable for children, which they can take for free, she said.

“I think it’s a great thing,” said Schilling, who enthusiastically agreed to be part of the program.

Schilling said he understands the value of reading and the importance of children reading at an early age. He served on the Fort Frye Local Schools Board of Education and is a county commissioner in Washington County.

Project chairman Jane Hardman of the Parkersburg Woman’s Club stands behind the counter at the Wash and Go in Vienna and the box of children’s books in the first Free Little Library in a laundromat in West Virginia, part of the nationwide Laundromat Library League initiative. Books are suitable for children of all ages. (Photo by Jess Mancini)

He and his wife have four children, the youngest at 3.

“Reading at a young age is very important for a child’s growth,” Schilling said.

Wash and Go is located at 2816 Grand Central Ave.

The Laundromat Library League was created in 2014 and has processed more than 113,000 books, Parrish said. While most are gently used, new books also are purchased to go with the donations.

“Sixty percent of low-income families have no books in homes,” Parrish said. “If children don’t have books or are not read to by age 3, they have heard 30 million less words than those who have.”

The Parkersburg Woman’s Club supplied books with multicultural themes, books for the very young and books appropriate for all school-age children.

Volunteers from the club will visit the site every two weeks to replenish the books.

Chairman of the laundromat project is Jane Hardman, who is assisted by Parrish and Susan Gardner. A label on the books will encourage readers to “Love it. Read it. Pass it on.” and denote they are a project of the Parkersburg Woman’s Club.

The Woman’s Club is involved with eight free little libraries in Parkersburg and Vienna where more than 5,000 books were placed in the last year. The libraries have been active since the pandemic, Parrish said.

“It’s encouraging to see books are still popular as not everyone prefers to read on a device and the little libraries are always open and no fines,” Parrish said.

Also involved is the Woman’s Club Education Community Service Committee chaired by Jenny Blair with members Donna Gault, Mary Weber, Jayne Whitlow, Sharon Niday, Missy Bannister, Sara Hylbert, Francesca Kunk, Debbie Newell, Pam Strcula, Maxine Ellison and Judy Winans.

Jess Mancini can be reached at jmancini@newsandsentinel.com.

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