Open Door scores funds for library

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 22, 2003

While 21-year-old Andy Murnahan likes to read magazines, his 16-year-old classmate Kimber Brickey prefers reading scary stories.

Both Open Door School students will have the chance to read more of their favorites at the school's library.

Friday morning, officials from Dollar General Store presented school representatives with a check for $5,000, part of the store's Back to School Grant program. Open Door School was chosen as one of four schools to receive grants out of 184 applications in a 27-state area. The other schools were located in Pittsburgh, Pa., West Paducah, Ky., and Harmony, Fla.

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Open Door School serves children ages 6-21 with mental retardation or development disabilities.

"I was ecstatic," said Principal Jeff Saunders of his reaction when he heard the news. "I hung up the phone and called Sarah (Diamond-Burroway, coordinator of grants and special projects for the Lawrence County Board of MR/DD), the superintendent (Paul Mollet), teachers and the library committee."

With this grant, the school now has several options on what it may purchase. Some items may include books, audio/visual assistance and shelving.

"It will be an overall overhaul," Saunders said.

Five years ago, the school had no library at all, Saunders said. Then, it received donations from libraries, other schools and parents to help supply the school's small library, located in the top floor hallway. With the grant, the school may be able to provide more space for the library.

"We want to thank Dollar General for their very generous support," Saunders said. "Our staff and students will never forget this."

Part of the reason for the Dollar General's educational investments is that the store's original founder, J.L. Turner quit school in the third grade and was illiterate, said Tina Sweat, regional manager. As a result, the corporation has made an investment in education, doing such activities as helping store managers who did not graduate from high school get their GEDs.

Open Door teacher Kathy Conner said her students like to come to the library for quiet time and to gain knowledge. Also, it gives her the chance to have students come and look for an answer to their questions rather than to have her simply tell them.

"It helps them be more independent," Conner said.

The school sponsors a weekly contest called "Digger," in which students are asked to research the school's question of the week. "Digger" is a dog that gives them clues as to where the answer can be found. Correct answers are placed in a box and a winner is drawn. The winner chooses an item from the school store. Also, the school sponsors the "Bookworm" contest in which the student who reads the most books each month receives a prize that includes a book and $1.

For 19-year-old Nikki Arbaugh, the library is not only a fun place to learn and be with her friends, but it is also a place where she can read about her favorite band - Hanson.

"Taylor, Zac and Isaac," she said.

"This is really, really nice for people like us. It's quiet time for us. I've been here since I was 12. We didn't have it back then."