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The newly-painted Elkhart City Hall will soon sport a donation box for children's books, as well as a blessings box.

Balancing municipal budgets is a real headache. Even so, becoming mayor has a few advantages.

Just ask Elkhart Mayor Jennifer McCoy, who's doing something she's always wanted to do: Install a free lending library and blessings box in front of Elkhart City Hall.

The 'Mayor's Book Nook,' and 'Elkie's Blessings Box,' expected before Thanksgiving, will sit in front of city offices for residents to take – or, ideally, swap – books, as well as get some help in times of need.

“I have always wanted a little lending library in town,” McCoy told the Herald-Press Thursday. “Now that I'm mayor, I can make it happen.”

City Administrator Judith Cantrell said she and her family had long wanted to start a donation box for the needy. When McCoy told Cantrell about her plans for a library, they realized they had a joint-vision to help the community.

People leave donated goods in a Blessing Box for others to pick up anonymously. Usually located in common areas, Blessing Boxes are filled with basic items people really need, such as non-perishable food and toiletries.

“I'm hoping to expand it a little to clothing,” Cantrell said. “Maybe put vouchers, or tickets, in the box for people to exchange for mittens or a coat inside city offices.”

The boxes, painted in Elkhart High School's red and white, will fashion out of newspaper vending machines. The city spent roughly $200 apiece for the machines – a good investment, McCoy said.

“The return, I'm sure, will be invaluable,” she said.

Elkhart Independent School District Superintendent Lamont Smith told the Herald-Press he applauds the mayor and her staff.

“This is an opportunity the mayor is using to bring the community together,” he said. “From infants to adolescents, reading creates a life-long love of learning. The community always benefits when it unites over positive things.”

Once the boxes are in place, McCoy said, she plans to expand the project as soon as possible.

“This is just the beginning,” she said. “We're starting with children's books, but could expand to adult literature, as well. We also want to put additional boxes in spots around town.”

Cantrell expects the charitable project to grow.

“Once we install the boxes in front of city hall, I'm certain we'll see growth,” she said. “But we're going to start small and pay it forward.”

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