WL couple creates library endowment fund to honor daughter's memory
In the midst of unimaginable pain, Denise and Mike Jones were faced with a choice.
After their teenage daughter, Holly Grace Jones, died unexpectedly in May, the Jones family had to decide what to do with the funds they had put away for Holly's college education. In the end, they opted to donate the $65,000 to one of Holly's favorite places: the West Linn Public Library.
More specifically, the funds went to the West Linn Library Foundation — a nonprofit that works primarily to fund capital improvements at the library — as part of a new Holly Grace Jones Endowment Fund. It was a gift that left library administrators and foundation members deeply humbled.
"To try to take the experience of tragedy and turn it into something that can potentially be positive to people in the future is a testament to who they are as people, and what they want this to be for others," Library Director Doug Erickson said. "I was completely humbled when I heard that this was what they wanted, and I take it very seriously."
The Jones family — who opted not to comment for this story — will leave specific spending decisions up to the library and the foundation, but they did have some general requests.
"They decided they wanted to give to the library for the purpose of supporting the teens' and children's rooms," foundation board member Melinda Robinson said. "So the gift was for that purpose, and they've asked to spend a certain percentage of the amount in the fund every year, but not more than a certain percentage."
Mike and Denise Jones also asked that $500 be put aside every year for a new scholarship. The money will be awarded to a graduating senior from West Linn High School who has served at least two years on the teen library advisory board, of which Holly was a member.
"What a wonderful opportunity to support readers and learners as they go on to the next step of their education," Robinson said.
The endowment fund has already grown substantially since it was created — according to Robinson, the foundation has raised an additional $16,000 to bring the total close to $80,000. And as donations stream in, several potential projects have already been identified.
"One would be to update the Youth Services Desk and really have a more robust, usable, user-friendly desk downstairs to better serve kids," Robinson said. "And so there would be a need to kind of reconfigure (the space). Doug (Erickson) has the idea of designing (with) a modular feel."
Erickson added that a new circulation desk would also incorporate radio-frequency identification (RFID) for checking out materials.
"We'd create it with RFID and better sight lines for us to be able to have the patron and librarian experience be at its best," Erickson said.
The foundation also hopes to fund improvements in the library's new "makerspace" as well as fresh programs related to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).
"It's an area that women have not had the same accessibility as men — in the STEM area — so there's lots of emphasis and focus on portals for younger girls and ladies to have that experience," Erickson said. "We're partnering with the high school to jointly sponsor a tech lab that happens on Wednesdays ... hopefully we can expand that as well."
For Martha Swanson, who took over as chair of the West Linn Library Foundation board of directors in July, the endowment fund is a game-changer.
"It means we can attract new membership ... and it means that we can look at doing some things that were pretty much out of reach before," Swanson said. "We could do little things — $500 here, $250 there — but now we can look at things being done and not necessarily having to wait (or) do long-term fundraisers for something that we potentially need now."
To donate or learn more, visit www.wllibraryfoundation.org/ways-to-give.html. Donations can be made in the form of one-time gifts or monthly contributions of a certain amount.