Kids Corner dedication

The Kids’ Corner, a Sierra-Oakhurst Kiwanis project in the making for the past four years, will be dedicated with festivities running from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, May 30, at the Oakhurst Branch of the Madera County Library.

Hot dogs, ice cream and other surprises will be provided by the service club for the kids who attend.

“We wanted to provide a place for younger children to sit and read books and where they can have their parents read books to them,” said club President and Project Director Harvey Left.

The result of this vision is a place where young children can now gather under a canopy of flowers, flamingos, butterflies, birds and pennants representing area elementary schools.A little side room has recently been repainted in bright colors of burnt orange and yellow with a pale blue ceiling to provide an area “for children not yet able to read.

It is a quiet place for parents to sit with very young children to read to them,” Left said. A colorful carpet in this area, as well as a book-themed carpet under the canopy, welcome young readers and pre-readers.

The club hopes to furnish the area, working in partnership with area businesses, with a two-seat couch and a pair of armchairs. Two vertical windows in the side room have been covered by digitally printed acrylic panels to simulate stained glass. They feature children reading books. The windows were designed by Kiwanian Paul Holmquist.

Some $6,600 has been expended for the project, so far. Of that, $2,400 has been for the purchase of books beginning in 2011 even before the project officially started, “books basically for the younger children that will be put into the Kids’ Corner area in the library,” said Left, a 15-year member of the Kiwanis club. The club has pledged $1,000 a year for 10 years for books as a part of this project.

Ideas for the project began formulating about four years ago, according to Left.

We wanted to “give Kiwanis identification in the local area. Our basic identification has been our pancake breakfasts and all the barbecuing we provide,” he said.

“Kids come in and they are drawn to that area which a is fun, colorful, lively preschool area,” said Dale Rushing, Oakhurst Branch Manager since 2008.

She, too, is enthusiastic about the time and money dedicated by the Kiwanis club. “They are making an area that is beautiful but they are also investing in the kids, too, providing newer books.”

Seed money for the project came from a fund that had previously been set up to provide scholarships to students. However, the fund was not generating enough interest for the club to be able to provide scholarships so the idea to invest in a signature project was born.

The money in that fund had been donated in memory of long-time Kiwanians. Those names are also familiar to many Mountain Area residents ... Carl Arfwedson, Carl Andersen, Hank Hellekson, Delphine Annette Keil, Aubrey Majors, Frank Olson and Neil Thompson are those remembered and in whose names donations were made.

Left estimates that 350 to 400 man-hours have been invested in the planning and creation of the Kids’ Corner space.

Key contributors in the fabrication of the structure and fabric work were: Jim and Karen Gemmill, Ed George, Dori Hartman, Richard McCrae and Bob Spinelli. Madera County Head Librarian, Ellen Mester, was also instrumental in the entire process.

Ideas for the design of the space were discussed collaboratively by the club. But the execution and final design was created by club member Holmquist. “We could not have anything on the floor because that took up too much floor space,” he said. That requirement sparked the idea of a canopy suspended from the ceiling.

Detailed blueprints and color coded labels created by Holmquist, who had a 16-year career with Disney Imagineering, made the on-site assembly of the structure resemble a Lincoln Log project. The modular structure is made up of Kee Klamp fittings and modular steel. The structure has three center rails, four cross rails, two end rails and two side rails.

About a month ago, several club members along with Jim Elliott, a member of the Friends of the Oakhurst Branch Library board of directors, and Bill Williams, a Madera county maintenance worker, used 2 x 4 stanchions, a mechanical lift and muscle power to raise the canopy and secure it to the ceiling.

Each of the nine cables attached to the canopy can hold 100 pounds of weight and each turnbuckle on the structure can hold 1,000 pounds. All of these underpinnings create the illusion that the canopy is floating overhead.

Parents, grandparents and children already have been gathering in the preschool area. Sometimes they plan to come for the story and craft time provided by Carolyn Campbell on Thursdays, as Anya Topper, 5, Anora Kouri, 3, Hannah Farris, 4, and Lilybee Dang, 3 did recently.

Afterwards, they meet at the Community Park, for play and a picnic.

Books purchased with funds provided by the Kiwanis club include juvenile nonfiction titles “Phones 100 Years Ago” and “CSI at Work,” preschool board books “You Are My Work of Art” and “101 First Words,” juvenile picture books “The Odd Egg” and “One Spotted Giraffe” and a juvenile easy reader “Stormy.”