She Magazine: Sioux Falls women work together to start a toy lending library
Originally posted 10:44 a.m. CST February 28, 2014, Tabby Soignier, email@example.com
(Photo: Emily Spartz / Argus Leader, Emily Spartz / Argus Leader)
Anelis Coscioni had an idea.
Not a big idea. In fact, it was small enough to fit into a toddler’s hands.
She wondered if it would be possible to create an easily accessible place where parents who can’t afford educational toys could come to check out a box of age-appropriate playthings to both engage and teach their children.
With plenty of research, and community groups behind them, an organization of Sioux Falls women is working to try to establish a toy lending library downtown that would be within easy walking distance for anyone using public transit.
“When you see a need, you find a way to meet that need,” says Coscioni, president of the Soroptimist Club of Sioux Falls. “We have big dreams, but you build on that and make it happen.”
Local members of the Soroptimist Club, a national organization that works to improve the lives of women and girls, are working to form a 501 c3 nonprofit organization that will put toys in the hands of those who need it most. The Sioux Falls group of women is small, with fewer than 20 members, but has been active in the city since 1940.
So far, there is space set aside for their library and the support of educators and those who work with families in need. Their next step is to find volunteers who will help them put their ideas into action and to come up with ways to purchase toys.
It’s a lofty project, but one that they hope the Sioux Falls community will reach out to use and support, says Lisa VandeVoort, a longtime club member who is working on the task force for the toy library.
“It’s exciting to be part of something that could benefit so many people,” VandeVoort says. “We’re looking for a way to really improve the lives of others.”
The idea of the Sioux Falls toy library came to Coscioni as she watched her own toddler daughter play. It seemed like the little girl was constantly “outgrowing” the toys that would stimulate her brain or teach her new skills.
Contacting people involved with the Sioux Falls School District, the full-time volunteer learned that educators who work with low-income families often noted that many children just didn’t have good, age appropriate toys. Many of those families live in the central part of the city and have limited access to transportation.
“It seemed like a simple idea, but then you dig a little and it’s not quite so simple,” says Coscioni, with a smile. “We kept working on it. We’re stubborn.”
Coscioni contacted CHILD Services at Sanford Health, which agreed to offer assistance to get the toy library set up and functional. Officials at Killian Community College have offered a room that can be used. The group hopes to make available for checkout about 200 toys in marked, clear boxes on the shelves.
And the Main Branch of the Siouxland Libraries has also agreed to take part in the project, too, checking out about 20 kits of toys each month to library patrons. Those downtown library patrons will be able to check out toys using their regular library cards.
Karen Wiechmann, youth services librarian at Siouxland Libraries, says the project fits in well with the library’s mission to serve young kids. Their early literacy focus is called, “Read and Play,” she says.
When parents play with young children with educational toys, it helps children learn fine-motor skills and literacy skills, she says. It’s part of helping them become future readers.
“We were really pleased when they approached us. We really welcome ideas like this,” says Wiechmann. “We really like to partner with the community.”
Coscioni said the group has researched ways to track and check out the toys. They hope to find volunteers to help run the library and do everything that needs to be done: organizing the library, cleaning toys, assisting families in selecting the right toys for their children and supervising checkouts and returns.
Carol Shuckart, one of the women helping start the project, says the group is grateful to have a way to help young children learn. And they hope to find more people who can help them form a board to oversee the toy library and to apply for grants and raise funds needed to keep the library active.
“Everyone we talk to has been positive about the project,” says the retired interior designer and club member. “We want to partner with other people, other groups. When we work together, there’s so much more we all can do.”