Friends of Palisades Library Donate Books to Inner-City Kids

By Sandra Eddy
Special to the Palisades News

In early June, the Friends of the Palisades Branch Library received a request that was too wonderful to pass up from the Ketchum-Downtown YMCA.

Palisadian Carol Pfannkuche, former director of the Palisades-Malibu Y and now director at Ketchum-Downtown Y, asked the Palisades Friends to assist with a special upcoming event.

For more than 20 years, Ketchum-Downtown has been providing after-school enrichment programming at Hoover Elementary, which sits in one of the city’s most crime-infested, gang-infiltrated neighborhoods. There are about 50 kids in the program, ranging in age from pre-K to middle school. They live in a neighborhood where the average annual family income is about $26,000.

Inner-city kids, who were attending a YMCA summer camp, received gift books from the Friends of the Palisades Branch Library. Photos: Carol Pfannkuche

Inner-city kids, who were attending a YMCA summer camp, received gift books from the Friends of the Palisades Branch Library. Photos: Carol Pfannkuche

The after-school program is run by a wonderful man, Jose Rivera, who attended Hoover as a child and has dedicated his life to helping lift these kids up and break the cycle of poverty.

In February, the school principal called Carol and begged her to add a summer day camp because the program that the kids usually attend in summer had been cancelled. Without the Y, these kids would be wandering their dangerous sidewalks unattended while their parents work. Donations were solicited to cover the camp cost, and the kids are now enrolled. The school is providing buses twice a week, so the kids can get from the school to the Y (two miles away), where they get swim lessons. Lunches have been donated, too.

The goal was to make their time at the Y really special. When Carol realized that the campers would be at the Y on the program director’s birthday, June 27, she asked Jose if he would agree to a huge birthday party for him and all the kids. He said yes, and the Y’s Board members stepped up to help with the games and serving the cake. There was a bounce house and dance activities, too.

Photos: Carol Pfannkuche

Photos: Carol Pfannkuche

Pfannkuche also had the idea to give each child a gift at the party, and thought a book would be a great idea. When she called the Palisades Friends and requested books as gifts for the kids, Wendy Edlen said absolutely “YES!” This is the type of giving that brings joy to everyone and the request was honored without hesitation, drawing on Wendy’s amazing collection of donated children’s books.

The Y volunteers wrapped the books in birthday paper and ribbons to add to the excitement of the day. In the end, the Day Camp Birthday Extravaganza was a huge success. Party hats, cupcakes and children taking home their very own book helped make the event a wonderful memory for everyone.

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