#GivingTuesday campaign aimed to eliminate fines and bring lapsed patrons back into libraries
The Niagara Falls Public Library has caught the holiday spirit, and is offering a fine forgiveness program to benefit Community Missions.
The "Food for Fines" program will launch on #GivingTuesday (Dec. 1), and will run throughout the month of December. Library patrons with overdue fines on their account can reduce those charges by donating unexpired, nonperishable food items at either the Main Library (1425 Main St.) or the LaSalle Library (8728 Buffalo Ave.), with all donations benefiting Community Missions' food pantry.
"We know that sometimes people avoid using the library, because they have overdue fines," said Jennifer Potter, acting director of the Niagara Falls Public Library. "This program gives people a way to not only take care of those fines, but to help their neighbors at the same time."
For each food item donated, library patrons will reduce their fines by $1, up to a limit of $20.
"We are grateful for the food donations that will help those in need," said the Rev. Mark Breese, agency minister and director of ministry and community partnerships at Community Missions. "We are also happy to partner in a project like this, because we know firsthand how valuable the library system is to our community."
The Niagara Falls Library has also thought about those among their patrons who may themselves be struggling with food insecurity.
"Our main goal is always to make access to the library easy for everyone," Potter said. "We want people to know that, if someone has library fines and is unable to make a food donation during the 'Food For Fines' drive, please come and talk with one of our friendly library staff about your fines."
The Niagara Falls Library and Community Missions have partnered for the past 20-plus years on the "Tidings of Joy" program, allowing community members the opportunity to select and purchase gifts for children involved with the mission's youth programs. Trees with wish list items can now be found at the Niagara Falls' two libraries, along with the North Tonawanda and Lockport locations.
In 2014, Community Missions' food pantry provided more than 29,000 meals to local residents. This year, demand within the pantry has risen dramatically, with the program showing a 30 percent increase over last year's numbers.