Friday, October 14, 2011

South Berwick Residents Show How Passion Can Build Buildings

You don’t have to be Rockefeller to give a generous donation to a cause that means a lot to you. Just ask Marilyn Ladner, a retired woman who lives on a fixed income and has pledged more than $10,000 to building a new library in her hometown.
“I really believe in libraries,” said Ladner, who pledged the money over a three-year period and is putting a modest monthly charge on her credit card. “When I was four years old my mother began taking me to the library in Gardiner, Maine, every Saturday morning. That was the highlight of the week.”
Ladner is one of several South Berwick donors who have given significant infusions to the Capital Campaign for the new South Berwick Public Library, just as the Town got set to welcome residents to a celebration of the new library’s progress on Thursday, Oct. 13.
Dave and Mary Stansfield, who have been involved in local efforts to build a new library since the late 1990s, made an even larger donation.
“When it looked like it was starting to become a reality, we were in a position to make a significant gift,” said Dave Stansfield, a member of the Town Building Committee that helped guide the initial stages of the project. “I remember when the town library was at Berwick Academy before it turned private. Then it moved downtown to the Jewett-Eastman House. People always said that was supposed to be a temporary location, but it’s been there over 40 years.”
Stansfield became involved, in part, because of his commitment to the physical space. “I’m a person who wants to be able to reuse an old building if at all possible, and I was very, very excited when the verdict came back: it’s feasible,” he said of the former church. “It’ll be less expensive than tearing down and building new.”
He noted a lot of people in town already have a connection to that building. “It was a well-established Catholic Church, and a lot of people grew up there and had their kids baptized there,” he said.
Another couple making a major gift to the new Library are Sandy Agrafiotis and Carl Pehrsson, who both grew up in families of readers. They recently discovered something they hadn’t realized about each other: as 10-year-olds, the first place they ever went alone on a city bus was to their local library, she in Manchester, NH and he in Westbury, NY.
“The library was important to me when I was young. I loved to go up the big marble staircase to the art room where I’d sit on the floor and pull out oversize books on painting and sculpture. I remember loving Cezanne, Van Gogh and Brancusi,” said Agrafiotis, an art history major and professional photographer.
“A library is a safe and welcoming place in the public world where children and adults can feel comfortable,” she said. “It really is a safe zone for children, and a place that doesn’t involve spending money. I agree with the concept of the public library as the community living room.”
Each of these families – plus several others who have given between $5,000 and $25,000 – has played a part in advancing the vision of a new, expanded and modern library at the former St. Michael’s Church on Young Street.
In August 2010, the Friends of South Berwick Library started its Capital Campaign to raise $1 million toward the $2.25 million cost of the new Library. South Berwick voters approved a $1.5 million bond, which is funding the bulk of renovation and construction costs.
According to Patti Mitchem, president of the Friends, the funds raised by the Capital Campaign will complete construction and cover all costs of turning the completed building into a library, including furnishings and computers. Funds raised in excess of expenses will be used to help pay down the bond, she said.
Photo caption: South Berwick residents Mary and Dave Stansfield, and Marilyn Ladner are major donors to the Capital Campaign for the new Public Library at the former church on Young Street. (Courtesy photos)