Chartiers-Houston Library gets anonymous $20K gift

August 6, 2014
Exterior of Chartiers-Houston Community Library in Houston - Observer-Reporter Order a Print

An anonymous donor is offering to give $20,000 to the Chartiers-Houston Community Library as a challenge for its leaders to raise an additional $20,000 from other sources to build a grassroots base of donors.

The donation, which is being funneled through the Washington County Community Foundation, is an opportunity for the struggling library to raise more cash to increase the operating hours and staff after Chartiers-Houston School Board voted in June to eliminate its annual $50,000 contribution.

Library board President Bill Hill said the board was off to a good start even before receiving the anonymous grant by raising $7,000 through small donations from area residents once they learned the library lost the school district’s funding. Caterpillar Inc., which has a facility in Chartiers Township, also gave the library a $5,000 gift in recent weeks, although it’s not known if that money can be added to the overall challenge figure.

“I think that underlines the fact that the residents of Chartiers-Houston want a library,” Hill said of the recent donations. “Since that’s the case, we’re going to do everything in our power to keep it open, and we’re excited about that. If no one had answered the call, then we’d be disappointed, but that’s certainly not the case.”

The library has been working without a director since May and lost several of its nine part-time workers when the school district decided to terminate its funding, Hill said. The board also was forced to reduce the library’s operating hours from 56 to 45 per week to meet minimum state standards.

Even with the anonymous grant and growing donations, Hill said the library needs an annual revenue stream of about $200,000 to adequately fund programs and staffing. The library currently has about half of that funding level now, meaning officials need to find sustainable revenue sources.

That’s why the matching grant challenge is so important for the library, said Washington County Community Foundation President Betsie Trew. The donor, who resides in the county but does not live in the Chartiers-Houston area, wanted to help the library after it lost the school district’s funding, Trew said. She added the money raised from area residents through the library’s “postcard campaign” is an encouraging first step to build its fundraising base.

“What many of these organizations need is ongoing support, whether they’re losing government support or seeing reductions in their institutional funding sources,” Trew said. “What all of them need to do is build or develop a base of individuals supporters. They can build on that over the years. That’s the key to giving.”

Other events for the library, including a spaghetti dinner in October and its participation in the “WCCF Gives” program Sept. 10, will help the push them closer to $20,000, she said. The community foundation event next month solicits donations for numerous organizations around the area with the WCCF promising to contribute an additional percentage depending on how much money is raised.

Hill said the library is using “WCCF Gives” to push for more community donations, while also reaching out to wealthy donors and corporate sponsors. He added the board might ask Chartiers Township, which gives $25,000 a year, and Houston Borough, which donates $1,500 a year, to increase those totals in the future.

He said the immediate addition of $40,000 – if that can be attained – will help the library increase hours, hire more staff members and improve their pay.

“We’re pretty optimistic,” Hill said, “but it’s definitely a struggle.”

The $20,000 donation comes nearly a month after a different anonymous source gave Citizens Library in Washington a $100,000 grant to help offset the loss of funding from Trinity Area School District.

Mike Jones has been a news reporter since 2005, covering crime, state and municipal government, education and energy. In addition to working at the Observer-Reporter, he also has spent time at the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail and He holds a journalism degree from West Virginia University.

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