Becky Whitefield, marketing coordinator at Cocoon House, shows off some of the books arriving. In celebration of its 125th anniversary, the Everett Woman’s Book Club has donated more than $3,000 worth of new books to the agency that shelters homeless teens and young adults. (Photo courtesy Woman’s Book Club of Everett)

Becky Whitefield, marketing coordinator at Cocoon House, shows off some of the books arriving. In celebration of its 125th anniversary, the Everett Woman’s Book Club has donated more than $3,000 worth of new books to the agency that shelters homeless teens and young adults. (Photo courtesy Woman’s Book Club of Everett)

Woman’s Book Club marks 125 years with gift to Cocoon House

Group that started Everett Public Library gives “very nice surprise” of books to help at-risk teens.

In 1894, the year after Everett incorporated, a group of women decided their rough-and-tumble town needed a reading room. They founded what became the Everett Public Library. This week, the Woman’s Book Club celebrates its 125th birthday. True to its traditions, the club is starting a new library — at Cocoon House.

A local nonprofit that houses and helps homeless and at-risk young people, Cocoon House moved into its new downtown Everett building in April. Twenty teens are now staying on the second floor of the complex at 3530 Colby Ave., said Becky Whitefield, the agency’s marketing coordinator. And 18- to 24-year-olds will soon occupy the third-floor apartments.

Less than a mile away, some 300 members of the Woman’s Book Club of Everett are expected to attend a 125th birthday party Wednesday. The luncheon, in the Edward D. Hansen Conference Center at Angel of the Winds Arena, will honor the club’s venerable past and update members on its latest philanthropy.

Laureen Robinett, a longtime club member, worked with a committee over the past year on the 125th anniversary project, which is donating new books for a Cocoon House library. By Monday, Robinett said, more than $3,000 worth of books — ordered by club members through Amazon or purchased with donations — had been delivered to Cocoon House.

“It is really exciting. This is something we have not had before,” said Whitefield. “When we were contacted by the book club, it was a very nice surprise.”

Robinett visited the nonprofit last week, where Cocoon House CEO Joseph Alonzo looked over the new books. Whitefield said they’ll be dispersed amongst Cocoon House facilities around Snohomish County.

Donations include board books and stories for tiny tots, bound for the nonprofit’s home in Arlington for pregnant or parenting youth and their children. The agency has short-term housing in Monroe, and in central Everett a house — the original Cocoon House — that shelters kids as young as 12.

Robinett curated the wish list of books, and worked with club member Joanne Koehler on Wednesday’s celebration. For donors ordering from Amazon, the list was divided into several categories.

One list was compiled using selections from the New York Times top 100 books, Goodreads and other sources. There was a list of books for local schools’ summer reading, another list of young children’s titles, and Spanish-language books.

“We also sold ‘birthday-grams,’ $125 that goes toward the Cocoon House library,” Robinett said. “We brought the lists to meetings, and most of them just wrote a check.”

All the books are new, and many are hardbacks. “We included e-readers,” said Robinett, adding that so far six have been purchased. The devices may be used to check out ebooks from the library. “That’s life. It’s all about electronics,” Robinett said.

Selections included the Harry Potter books and other popular series, classic novels, resource titles, books about basic cooking and financial literacy, even the “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” pregnancy guide.

“And anything with a movie that they know — anything to get them going with reading,” Robinett said. “It’s not about a book we think they should read, but a book they want to read.”

The book club is made up of more than 20 smaller groups, departments with names such as Centennial, Classics and Odyssey. I’ve been a member, part of the small group called Harmony, for 15 years.

Some members have met together since the 1960s. Most groups meet in members’ homes. There are also monthly programs, for the entire club, at the Everett library. Once an invitation-only organization open only to married women, the club today is much more inclusive.

A member since 2002, Robinett said she’s developed deep friendships while talking about books and life. “The discussions are amazing, even when they love a book and you hate it,” she said. “That connection, it’s something bigger than yourself.”

Member Roberta Young Jonnet chronicled the club’s history in an article published in The Herald in 2017. That first meeting was in the home of Alice Baird, the club’s first president. “We hope to have a library before a year,” Baird wrote in 1894.

“We’ve come full circle,” Robinett said. “We wanted to give back in the way they started, and honor our legacy.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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