The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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March 8, 2013

Library volunteers sustain connection to outside world

CLINTON — Tom Streveler ambles up to the door of Bickford Cottage carrying a bag heaving full of audiobooks.

He strolls through the hallways of the assisted living center to find Lucille Dodd, a 96-year-old who eagerly awaits her visitor, but more importantly the stories that wait to be uncovered in the bag Streveler carries. 

Streveler, 71, is a member of the Friends of the Clinton Public Library and delivers books for the library’s homebound program. On Thursday he delivered to three women, including Dodd, who rely on books, audiobooks, DVDs and other media as an outlet to the world.   

“I don’t know what I would do without them,” Dodd said.

The homebound program extends a lifeline to those who can’t make a trip to the Clinton Public Library themselves by delivering the adventure, joy and intrigue of a book, movie or music to their doors.

The program has standing relationships with many of the senior living facilities throughout the community such as Bickford Cottage and Sarah Harding, but also works with individuals who would like to enrich their lives. To get started, patrons call the library and speak to Cindy  McClimon, the homebound program coordinator. After the initial contact, McClimon digs in to find out how the program can best serve that client.  

For 93-year-old Bernice Cook, the audio books she receives every month allow her to continue exploring romance and real life stories she wouldn’t otherwise be able to. Cook is legally blind, meaning she’s unable to see the books at the library, let alone make the trek there.

“This program is mighty important to me,” she said.

McClimon, a retired nurse, interviews book seekers to discover what kinds of materials or particular authors pique their interest and also asks how much they would like to read over the course of a month. After the interview she picks out books that she believe will fulfill the client’s needs. If she didn’t get to interview the patron in person, she will be the first to deliver to them.   

“I like picking out the books,” she said. “It’s a process. Clients are re-evaluated all the time.”

Victoria Tieso, 56, started taking advantage of the homebound program a little more than a year ago. She has trouble walking because of neuropathy in her legs caused by a snake bite she suffered in her 20s. She also has skin lukemia, making her skin extremely sensitive to the elements. Both ailments restrict how much she ventures outside of her apartment.

“I needed something good to do,” Tieso said.

Mysteries, biographies and romance top her list of favorite genres.

“They’re so nice to me. I truly am grateful,” she said.  

In other cases, such as the senior living and nursing homes that the program serves, McClimon sets up a mini library where the patrons can pick and choose as they would like. McClimon wraps the books and places them in the library where the volunteers can grab them and head out to their deliveries.  

In January, McClimon and 16 volunteers delivered 289 books to 30 different patrons. They are allowed to keep the books for up to two months, but get a new delivery every month. Patrons are also allowed to receive other library items through the program. The volunteers also delivered six DVDs and 79 CDs in January.  

Streveler and the other volunteers aren’t merely couriers.  

“It’s not a drop-and-run thing,” McClimon said. “You are their lifeline.”

For Streveler, volunteering is an opportunity to serve people who are trying to keep their minds sharp and in tune. Interacting with the people is his favorite part.

“I love their spirit and attitude,” he said. “This is good for their imagination and creativity. When you’re blind and can’t get out this becomes a journey for them.”  

Streveler has been bringing library materials to Dodd since he started delivering a couple years ago. When he learned she was moving to Bickford Cottage, a stop outside of his normal route, he told McClimon he still wanted to be her connection.  

Dodd used to read all the time, but when macular degeneration took its toll on her eyes, she turned to audio books. She goes through about 24 in less than a month.  

“It keeps my brain active,” she said.

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