At 77, Art Ruben still has his first book. Published in the 1930s, the Yankee Doodle story was a favorite, found in his parents’ Everett attic after they died.
With memories of childhood reading, Ruben and other Everett Central Lions Club members came up with a way to get books into kids’ hands and into their families’ homes. As coronavirus prevention measures keep public libraries closed, the club has scheduled a giveaway to bolster book supplies in neighborhood Little Free Libraries.
On July 25, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the club plans to donate bags of books during a drive-through giveaway at Everett’s Forest Park. The event is intended for those — individuals and organizations — that have a Little Free Library. Globally, an estimated 100,000 of the book-sharing boxes have been built.
Ruben, the club’s communications secretary, said people wanting to pick up books are asked to email email@example.com. The plan is to register participants and stagger pick-up times to ensure social distancing. By being in contact with Little Free Library owners, there may be opportunities to give them more books in the future.
In the past, the club has worked with the Everett Public Library on its summer reading program, Ruben said. The club has provided books to some school libraries, which in previous summers have been open, and to the Imagine Children’s Museum.
Project Homeless Connect, for years an annual event in Everett, also received and gave away hundreds of Lions Club books. A United Way of Snohomish County partnership with the county, the city of Everett and other agencies, Project Homeless Connect provided medical care and other direct services to people in need. Staged at different locations — Cascade and Everett high schools and Evergreen Middle School — the event hasn’t been held since 2017.
“It was sad to see Project Homeless Connect go,” said Ruben, who was involved with the event. “It was a really community-driven event.”
During the pandemic, such large gatherings aren’t possible. Ruben sees Little Free Libraries as an avenue for getting books out to neighborhoods.
The Everett Central Lions Club, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, founded a Lions Giving Library as part of the Lions International literacy campaign intended to encourage reading among kids.
At Forest Park, the drive-through spot will be near Floral Hall. “We’ll have a sign out. We don’t want people indoors,” Ruben said. Each recipient will get a bag with a minimum of a dozen books.
The giveaway comes as the club looks forward to its centennial celebration, now planned for 6-9 p.m. Nov. 7 at the Everett Yacht Club. It’s been rescheduled once due to the pandemic, and if the November party can’t happen it might be held next May. Ruben said the Lions International president, Dr. Jung-Yul Choi, is expected to travel from Korea to attend.
According to its website, the Everett club is the oldest in the Northwest. One of 48,000 clubs worldwide, it was chartered May 20, 1920 — the first Lions Club north of San Francisco and west of the Denver area. Ruben has been with the group 20 years.
With an emphasis on helping those who are visually or hearing impaired, the club recycles used eyeglasses and hearing aids. It’s been an organizer of an annual Salmon Fishing Derby for the Blind, food drives and other charitable efforts.
The Everett Central Lions Club was spearheaded by Lew V. Day, who in 1920 was manager of the J.C. Penney store here. “In 1925, he got a call from James Cash Penney himself,” Ruben said. Day, who moved to New York and became executive vice president of the J.C. Penney Co., was back in Everett in 1957 for the opening of a remodeled Penney’s store.
A 100th anniversary commentary by Victor Harris, the club’s past president, was published in The Daily Herald May 23. He wrote that Lions were challenged to be “Knights of the Blind” by Helen Keller, who became the club’s first female member.
“Today, Everett Central Lions Club is still serving the community and always looking for men and women who want to help,” Harris wrote.
“It’s a very inspirational story,” Ruben said. And the club is “a really interesting mixture of people.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Free books for little libraries
The Everett Central Lions Club will provide books for those with a Little Free Library at a drive-through giveaway event 10 a.m.-1 p.m. July 25 outside Floral Hall at Everett’s Forest Park, 802 E. Mukilteo Blvd. Books are from the Lions Giving Library, and most are used. Children’s books may also be donated at the event, in paper or plastic bags. Participants are asked to register for a drive-up appointment by sending email to: email@example.com