By CHERIL VERNON
With a Mexican theme featuring the local Mariachi Lara band and a Mexican fiesta catered by Sabor a Pasión’s chef Simon Webster, the Palestine Library Friends Inc. celebrated the organization’s accomplishments in 2012 during the annual Library Friends Banquet Thursday at Harvey Woman’s Club.
During the event, two individuals were presented with special awards — Palestine Library Friend of the Year and Palestine Public Library Employee of the Year.
The Palestine Library Friend of the Year award was presented to longtime volunteer Anita Wilhelm.
“Always a smile, ever ready to lend a hand, whether retiring books from the library shelves by removing stickers and barcodes or sorting donated books for the book sale and assisting with the actual sale, she is ready to help out,” Palestine Library Friends board member Ruth Davis said when presenting the award. “As a retired registered nurse, our recipient is no stranger to serving others....This cheerful, hard-working honoree has volunteered at the library for many years. We want her to know how much we value her contributions.”
Wilhelm said she was surprised to receive the award. She had started volunteering when the library was located at its former location on Cedar Street.
“Someone once asked me why I volunteered and I said ‘because I like books and my mother (Alveta Wilhelm) used to read to us and she loved books,’” Wilhelm said. “I wanted to honor her memory by volunteering at the library because it makes me feel closer to her.”
Through volunteering, Wilhelm said she has learned a lot about what happens behind the scenes at the library.
“There is a lot of work that goes on every day that we take for granted,” Wilhelm said in appreciation to the library staff.
Library Director Theresa Holden presented the Library Employee of the Year award to longtime employee Wendell Ogidi, who she praised for her hard work, honesty, kindness, generosity and “sterling qualities.”
“She has worked at the library for two decades. She has probably checked out your books,” Holden said. “She works at the desk but she also puts the books into the computer system, processing materials, laminating them and putting on labels.”
Ogidi said she also was surprised to receive the award, but enjoys her job.
“I like reading, I’ve been there a long time and I love what I do,” Ogidi said.
Holden also shared highlights from the library in 2012. Approximately 110,064 items were checked out and the staff answered 12,472 questions. More than 10,000 people participated in the library’s youth programs that ranged from the summer reading club to Mall-O-Ween.
“We want to thank the Friends for supporting the library,” Holden said. “We couldn’t do this without you.”
New Palestine Library Friends board members were elected, including: Haywood Harris, Ruth Davis, Marilyn Sheridan, Carson Wages, Mike Thomason, Paula Ellis, Robert Weilacher, Janet Raybin and Jeremy Janz. Officers are Weilacher, president; Janz, president-elect; Raybin, secretary; and Sheridan, treasurer.
Outgoing board members include Carroll Boyd, Joyce Anderson and Jill Ralph.
Also recognized were Palestine Library Memorial Inc. Board members: Ron Safford, president; Gay Bryant, Ruth Davis, Matt Hill, Linda Walton, George Anderson and Barbara Gates.
City of Palestine Library Board members also were recognized, including Cindy Thornton, chairperson; Nikki Calhoun, Rosemary Miller, Rhonda Herrington, Shirley Campbell, Janie Sepulvida and Bonnie Woolverton.
The Palestine Library Friends organization is actively looking for persons interested in joining the organization or volunteering their time. Annual membership is $10 for individuals, $15 for families, $25 for sponsors, $50 for patrons, $100 for sustaining and $250 for corporate. Palestine Library Friends is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Contributions and dues may be tax deductible.
The Palestine Library Friends will host a book sale from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 9 in the Palestine Mall. For more information about upcoming events, follow the organization on Facebook.