United Way of Missoula County has just given nearly 1,000 new books to children through several nonprofit groups through their partners at the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.

KGVO spoke to Chief Executive Officer Susan Hay Patrick about the books specifically for children five and younger.

“We administer something called Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, which was started by the amazing Dolly Parton,” said Hay Patrick. “We brought it to Missoula in 2015, and the program mails a free high quality, age appropriate book once a month to all enrolled kids in Missoula and Mineral counties from birth until age five. That means by the time they start kindergarten, if they've been enrolled since birth, they have a home library of up to 60 books.”

Hay Patrick explained how the large number of books became available.

“Every once in a while we get books returned, because people have moved or they miss getting their mail,” she said. “We always try to track down the child for whom the book was intended through email and calling them but when we can't, we are left with sometimes a lot of books, and thanks to the Postal Service, they deliver them back to our office instead of throwing them away.”

Hay Patrick said she and her staff asked for assistance from volunteers to help prepare the books for redistribution to kids.

“We decided to work with local nonprofits that serve young kids and donate the books to them, so a cadre of volunteers came in and took the address labels off and got them all ready and then my colleagues on the staff delivered them around town,” she said. “Also there's a business networking group that meets at Paradise Falls, and since we just weren't set up to have volunteers in our office, so we brought books to their business networking group meeting at Paradise Falls. And these wonderful local business people tore off all the labels and got them ready for us to donate to nonprofits.”

Some of the agencies receiving the books include Partnership Health Center, All Nations Health Center, Empower Place at the Missoula Food Bank & Community Center, Meadowlark &YWCA Missoula, Mountain Home Montana, Western Montana Clinic (two locations: Community and Providence), University Congregational Church Preschool, Reach Out and Read (operated out of Community Medical Center) and
CASA of Missoula.

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