Responding to a funding shortfall this past spring in the Henry County Imagination Library program, attorneys in Henry County stepped up to a challenge and donated and/or pledged almost $2,500 — and several already have said they’ll do the same the following year.

Imagination Library buys and mails age-appropriate books monthly to Henry County children from birth through age 5. Parents read to their young children, boosting their education readiness by the time their old enough for kindergarten.

The almost 15-year-old program has bought and mailed more than 150,000 books to Henry County children since December 2004.

For the first time ever, the Henry County Commission donated $2,500 in late February to help the program with its costs of more than $27,000 a year — although a state program, the Governor’s Books From Birth Foundation, pays half of the cost.

Imagination Library, started by country music superstar Dolly Parton in East Tennessee, has been supported through the years by the Henry County Literacy Council, The Post-Intelligencer and Rhea Public Library

The program relies on financial help from sources such as $8,500 from the Helping Hand radio auction, $1,500 from the Paris Board of Public Utilities’ Project Roundup, and donations from civic groups and private individuals.

County Mayor Brent Greer and P-I Editor and Publisher Michael Williams, local Imagination Library chairman, told the commissioners that now is a good time for the public to be reintroduced to the program.

“It’s kind of a low-key program for the public,” Williams said at the meeting. “It drops off the radar. Well, I guess we need to get it back on the radar.”

“We need to make an effort to get the community more involved,” Greer said. “I guess the people in the county might have a tendency to become complacent about the program, knowing that it was being taken care of.”

County attorney Rob Whitfield, who was at the commission meeting, took the cause back to his law firm, Greer, Greer & Whitfield, which promptly pledged $600 annually for the next two years.

Imagination Library sent letters and called other local attorneys, challenging them to match this. The Clark & Cox law firm quickly met the two-year challenge, even with just two attorneys in the firm.

Other attorneys and law firms writing checks from $400 to $100 to help were Fred McLean, Chip McLean, the Neese Law Firm, Bill Looney and the Hawley & McCadams Law Firm.

“We couldn’t have kept buying and mailing children’s books without the help of our wonderful local attorneys,” Williams said. “They’re really helping us out in our time of need.”

Other attorneys or any other person, organization or business willing to help cover the Imagination Library expenses can call Williams at 642-1162 or email him at mwilliams@parispi.net.

People interested in donating to the program or to sign their child up to receive books also can go to www.imaginationlibrary.com/usa/affiliate/TNHENRY.

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