Crookston now an affiliate of Dolly Parton Imagination Library

Jess Bengtson
Crookston Times

Crookston resident Katie (Ryan) Proulx is looking to introduce Dolly Parton's Imagination Library to the community after recently being approved as an affiliate. The Times caught up with Proulx and did a Q&A with her about the process, requirements, funding, who can access the books and what inspired her to apply.

What was the process like to get approved for the program? Where did you begin?

The process was fairly straightforward, but took quite a bit of time and planning to get everything set in place. I began chatting with Pam Hunsaker, our regional director at The Dollywood Foundation. She is a huge help and was able to guide me in each step of the process. I needed either a nonprofit organization or a school district to become the sponsor/affiliate. With the help of Laura Lyczewski, the school districts business manager, and Gina Gunderson over at ECFE, we were able to get everything set in place.

How long was the process until you were approved?

It's taken a couple of months for everything to fall into place and get all the little kinks out, Crookston is now a go for this wonderful program, and we are so excited!

Once approved, what are the requirements?

The requirements on our end as the affiliate are now to go out and get funding. The Dollywood Foundation encourages program affiliates to partner with many different types of local businesses and individuals to assist in program funding. After that the only requirement of each child, birth to age 5, is that they live in our community and sign up with us.

How much in funding do you have to raise? By when?

That really depends on how many children we can get to sign up. Obviously, our goal is to have as many children in the community signed up as possible! This is an ongoing program so we will always be looking for support, there is no deadline.

Do you have to raise a certain amount of money each year for our community to be a part of the program?

Yes and no. We decided that a good yearly goal to keep the program going would be roughly 5,000 and we will always be funding to keep the program going, however, we need our families to sign up as well and register their child with us.

Is there a limit to how many children can sign up for books?

There is no limit as long as we have the funds in our Dollywood bank account to support them. In fact, more than one child can be signed up in a household as long as they meet the age 5 and under requirement.

Is there anything new to the program that I couldn't find info for on their website?

The website is a great place to start if you are interested in the program for your child or supporting us as an affiliate. If you would like to donate or sign up your child through the website, please make sure you use the dropdown menu to find Crookston, MN, otherwise your donation will go into a general Dollywood fund. The website is www.imaginationlibrary.com

The ages are still birth to 5, right?

Yes, that is correct! Each child birth to age 5 will receive an age-appropriate book mailed directly to their home at no cost to them.

What inspired you to apply?

I had first heard of this while teaching in Rochester, MN. My focus as a Special Education teacher has always been literacy, and I see the importance of it, especially at an early age. We know as educators the earlier the better when it comes to a love of reading and gaining literacy skills. My inspiration is really to see literacy grow in this community and help children grow in their love of reading.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am fairly new to Crookston; this will be my third year here. My husband, who's hometown is Crookston, is what brought me here. I grew up in Grand Forks, ND and after college moved to Rochester, MN where I started my career in education. I love spending time with family and friends, and everything the outdoors has to offer in Minnesota.

Dolly Parton's Imagination Library