Jun 14, 2017

Lay members attending the 2017 Annual Conference will learn about a lay-led ministry that is no doubt helping to open young minds through the adventure of reading books. And like many other treasures, those books are being found in rather unlikely places.

Keynote speaker Arlene Rengert, a member of Grove UMC in West Chester, will introduce the Laundromat Library League (LLL) during the annual Laity Session on Thursday, June 15 (9:30 AM). The ministry places free, donated children’s books inside of neighborhood laundromats, inviting patrons to take and share them with young readers.

But unlike typical libraries, these books don’t have to be returned. Instead, each book bears a sticker that makes only three simple requests of its lucky recipient: “Read It. Love It. Pass It On.”

“The idea is to put them into circulation among populations of children who will use them,” says Rengert, who co-founded and co-manages the project with Karen Iacobucci, aided by supporters.

With an abundance of donated books, committed volunteers and partner churches, agencies and organizations, the Laundromat Library League is growing in popularity and placements across Eastern PA and beyond, Rengert shared. She cites “a dense network of laundromats that contain ‘library boxes’ of books so that children from homes that lack books have access to them.”

The only problem is a lack of diversity. Very few of the books are written in Spanish or depict settings that are not middle-class or feature people of different races and ethnicities. “We use donated funds to purchase these when possible, so that at least in some cases we can offer enriched Library Box content,” said Rengert, a retired teacher.

The league has 45 laundromat sites in Eastern PA, and the model is being replicated in other states, including Maryland, Ohio, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina and Arkansas. Meanwhile, the LLL is developing “branch” service locations in our region to receive, prepare and distribute books to area laundromats.

Grandview UMC in Lancaster is the first branch. The league hopes for more in places like Reading, Allentown and sections of Philadelphia. They are always looking for more laundromats in more communities and volunteers to offer the joy of books to children who lack learning resources. Visit the LLL’s website and Facebook page to learn more and to offer support.

Also at the Laity Session, members will hear about the recent restructuring of UM lay ministry from Judy Ehninger, Director of the Certified Lay Ministers Program, and George Hollich, who directs the Christ Servant Ministers program. Information-sharing about the August Academy for Laity, September Laity Retreat and UM Women and UM Men will fill out the agenda, in addition to brief worship and recognition of lay ministers.