FREETOWN

While visiting an ice cream shop in the heart of Freetown, a 9-year-old girl looked across the road and saw a freestanding display with books inside.

When she went over to check it out, she found a devotional book and thought it would be good to give to her grandmother, whose husband had just died.

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“She sat there in the chair and she said, ‘I think this is just what Mamaw needs,’” said Donna Fritz, who operates Twist ‘n’ Twirl. “She read this little prayer in there, and she said, ‘I think it will help her from being so sad.’”

Fritz said that helped her realize the effort of the Pershing Township Lions Club to add a Little Free Library in the small Jackson County community was all worth it.

The next day, the girl’s 5-year-old brother came by the ice cream shop and said he wanted to go pick out a book, so Fritz walked over with him and helped him make a selection. He chose a children’s book.

“He got it, and we sat here and read it,” Fritz said. “I thought it was really neat.”

Someone with the Seymour Noon Lions Club had talked about sponsoring a Little Free Library, so a member of the Pershing Township Lions Club called Read Jackson County to see what they could do to establish a Little Free Library in Freetown.

Matt Nicholson, director of Read Jackson County, attended a Lions Club meeting and shared information on how it works.

The idea is for someone to take a book and either return it when they are done reading it or leave another book in its place, but some people may choose to share the book with someone else or keep it themselves.

Jackson County’s first Little Free Library went up in the fall of 2015 outside Nicholson’s shop, B2 Bikes and Boards, on South Chestnut Street in Seymour.

For anyone who wants to sponsor a Little Free Library, they can pay $52 to have Nicholson build the wooden box to hold the books and put it on a wooden post. He also can provide the plans for someone who wants to build their own.

Russell Fritz, a member of the Pershing Township Lions Club, decided to build the one for Freetown himself.

The club wanted to put the Little Free Library in front of the Freetown and Pershing Township Museum along State Road 58, but Russell said he knew he couldn’t dig the solid ground out front, so he chose to make a freestanding display.

He used treated plywood for the box and put siding on it instead of paint because it would require less maintenance.

The box is 12-by-24 inches inside and 16 inches tall, while the whole display is about 5½ feet tall.

He chose to add a sign for the front so people would know what it is. That was donated by Westwind Sign Co. in Seymour.

Then it was time to stock the Little Free Library with books. The back of it has space to store books in the event that the top part is full.

Sharon Yost, president of the Pershing Township Lions Club, said the Little Free Library contains books for a variety of ages and interests.

“There are books over there that parents can get and read to their children, and there are some other ones that children can get and read on their own,” she said. “There’s fiction and nonfiction, and there are books over there that you want to get and just curl up with and not lay the book down they are so interesting.”

Russell said he likes the concept of the Little Free Library, and it will be a benefit to the community if people use it.

Yost said they planned on sending fliers to churches in the area to help spread the word about it.

Gale Smith, vice president of the Pershing Township Lions Club, said it offers another opportunity for people in the community, particularly children.

“People just don’t do enough of it. That’s the problem,” Smith said of reading. “The younger they start, the better. There is a lot in books, but if you don’t open them up, you don’t get anything.”

The Little Free Library also is good for Freetown because the community doesn’t have a library. Donna said the Jackson County Public Library’s Bookmobile used to visit the town in the summer, but that no longer happens.

Freetown’s display gives Jackson County eight Little Free Libraries. The other seven are in Seymour.

Besides B2 Bikes and Boards, they are at Chillicen, The Brooklyn Pizza Co., Human Services Inc. and the Jackson County Visitor Center. Anchor House Family Assistance Center and Food Pantry also has one for its clients, and the other one is at the Mutton Creek subdivision east of the city.

The latter one recently came about after a man stopped by Nicholson’s shop one day when he was adding books. The man thought it would be good to have one at the subdivision, so he asked Nicholson to built it.

“We’re always looking for places to put them and donations to help put one up,” Nicholson said. “I would love to see more of them around the county, anybody that’s willing to share a little bit of their yard space and willing to have a little bit of traffic change in front of wherever they are.”

Any group, business or individual can sponsor one to cover the cost of materials to have it built or they can build their own.

“Last year, we partnered up with Southern Indiana Center for the Arts to have three of them painted around town,” Nicholson said. “There’s a lot of fun that can be had with it, but I’ve also got the plans that I can photocopy pretty easy and give you the plans if you are a do-it-yourselfer.”

Nicholson said a Little Free Library brings a sense of community. He has noticed that with the one outside his shop.

“You get to know your neighbors. I learned my neighbor likes mysteries,” he said. “I think it is a good thing for the community to have access to exchange books or just to pick one up to take home. There’s something for everyone.”

Members of the Pershing Township Lions Club are glad to have a Little Free Library available for the community to go along with all of the other ways they help people in the area and beyond.

It fits in with the Lions Club motto, “We Serve.”

“We are a service club,” Yost said. “This is a way of serving people.”

At a glance

The Pershing Township Lions Club was formed about 10 years ago.

Along with promoting reading, the Lions Club focuses on feeding the hungry. It fulfills that mission by collecting canned goods or money for local food pantries.

Members also have built wheelchair ramps, supplied eyeglasses and winter coats for children, donated money to provide measles shots to people overseas and helped conduct vision screenings at local schools and the county fair.

Members also operate a basketball shoot booth at the Seymour Oktoberfest and conduct monthly suppers and euchre tournaments as fundraisers to be able to do their charitable acts.

For information or to join the Pershing Township Lions Club, call President Sharon Yost at 812-528-1507.

At a glance

Jackson County now has eight Little Free Libraries.

Seven are in Seymour — B2 Bikes and Boards, Chillicen, The Brooklyn Pizza Co., Human Services Inc., Jackson County Visitor Center, Anchor House Family Assistance Center and Food Pantry and the Mutton Creek subdivision.

The newest one is in Freetown in front of the Freetown and Pershing Township Museum.

Any business, group or individual interested in their own Little Free Library may contact Matt Nicholson, director of Read Jackson County, by calling 812-523-8688 or emailing director@readjacksoncounty.org.

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Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.