For adults over 60 years old, the ENLITE outreach service offered by the Newton Public Library is a critical resource — especially for those who are voracious readers.
"Reading is one way to pass time if you can't do much," said ENLITE volunteer Aldine Springer. "One lady used to take out 20 some books at a time, and her family bought her a cart."
Through ENLITE, the library's large print collection is offered for delivery to homebound residents in Newton or North Newton, as well as those living in Asbury Park, Kansas Christian Home, Kidron Bethel, Presbyterian Manor and other senior living centers. Books are selected for each monthly visit by ENLITE volunteers, based off cards with readers' preferences as well as connections those volunteers have made to gauge clients' interests.
Additionally, all clients' library cards are kept on file and there are no fines tied to the program, volunteer Karen Monroe noted.
Speaking to clients' passion for reading, Monroe said there was a push to cut funding of the program a few years back. In response, it was reported the city commission had the most responses/calls on an issue in regards to those potential cuts.
Passion is not just a one-way street, though, as those who volunteer are very invested in the program as well.
"For one thing, I love reading, and I tell my people, 'Well, I hope somebody does this for me someday,' " Monroe said.
"Boy, the appreciation factor is high. People are so grateful. It's the most rewarding thing for something I'm personally passionate about," said volunteer Sylvia Epp.
Many of the volunteers with ENLITE have become engrained in the program — with Springer, Monroe and Epp each serving with ENLITE for at least 10 years (30 years, in Monroe's case). Some visit only one senior center a month, others multiple. While all three have other volunteer efforts in the community, none are as involved — or as fun — as working with ENLITE.
Additionally, there was a sort of civic duty within the trio that was particularly sparked when they were allotted some free time.
"There are many activities that happen in a community that are so meaningful to people and I just felt very much that, being retired, I had lots of energy and I wanted to give back," Epp said.
While Marsha Thiesen has not been involved with ENLITE as long as some of the other volunteers, in her time taking books to residents at Asbury Park she has seen first-hand the joy the service brings to its clients in all walks of life. She recalled taking children's books to residents in the former memory care unit and how, delivering those books still, residents are "tickled pink" to have them
Epp has seen similar reactions from those who take value from the program that might not be clear at first, seeing how much the service meant to a client who had suffered a stroke.
"Because you couldn't communicate verbally with this person, you never knew whether that person received an appreciation from the books or not, but when I would look into the eyes of this person and do a little bit of non-verbal communication ... I knew I could read in the person's eyes that there was an understanding of the books and a deep satisfaction and pleasure," Epp said. "That spoke to me so strongly that we should not make any judgments nor make any conclusions about who continues to have the need for, in this case, reading.
"It's always neat to see what goes on, what it means to people," said Newton Public Library public relations and special services supervisor Samuel Jack.
Volunteers are a necessity to keep the ENLITE program going, too, so to get involved or for more information on the program, call 283-2890.