The pandemic pushed Kimberly Public Library to get creative in our mission to serve the community. We had to look for new ways to gather and connect patrons in safe and accessible ways. In the fall of 2021 and with funding from a grant from the Bright Idea fund within the Community Foundation (now called the Community Vision Fund), the library began planning for its Storybook Garden, a raised garden right outside the building.
The project has inspired several community partnerships. Troop 44 of the Kimberly Area Boy Scouts volunteered to construct the planters — getting firsthand experience with planning and completing a build. The Kimberly Street Department poured cement for the foundation of the planters.
To reach more people with the planting process, the library helped write an additional grant that allowed us to send home 140 seed starter kits with a meal to seniors in our service area. This meal was a partnership between many Kimberly departments and local businesses, including Robinson’s Florist and Greenhouses.
With the completion of the garden beds, we held our first in-person Storybook Garden program last spring. We invited patrons to start seeds at the library. They brought their starters home, and the library cultivated two trays of seeds under a grow light at the circulation desk. Those same plants were transplanted into the garden beds during another program where they are currently producing peppers and marigold flowers.
Storybook Garden also partnered with our local Master Gardener program to teach patrons how to use raised planters. Our cooking club hosted a patron-led cooking demonstration series focused on using herbs and spices. In June, they focused on sage. Afterwards, the group went out to the garden to collect herbs they could use in their own cooking. Our book clubs met outside by the garden this summer to discuss their latest reads. And this fall, we are planning a Plant Propagation program to teach patrons how to create new plants from their existing plants.
We are still deciding what to do next year with the garden. Should the planters grow ingredients that can be combined to make salsa? What about a butterfly garden to cultivate? Or maybe the garden will inspire a tiny seed library. Having a garden has sparked new ideas and helped us gather together this summer. We are excited to see what grows in the coming years.
Our Community Vision Fund (formerly Bright Idea Fund), preserves and enhances the quality of life in Calumet, Outagamie, Shawano and Waupaca counties and the Neenah-Menasha area of Winnebago County by awarding grants to charitable organizations working to make a difference in their communities. Want to help bright ideas burn even brighter? Learn how to get involved as a donor, or learn how to apply for a Bright Idea grant as a nonprofit organization.