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Members of the GFWC Centennial Woman’s Club recently donated $400 to the local UT Extension Office in order to help sustain the Rock Creek Story Book Trail. According to Education Committee Co-Chair Becky Waggoner, the club received a $200 GFWC Focus on Literacy Grant in April to benefit the trail. An anonymous club member then matched the grant, Waggoner said. In front from left are Leslie Warren, youth services librarian for Lannom Library, UT Extension agent Belinda Riddle and Waggoner. In back are Anita and Vince Zaccardi, GFWC Centennial Woman’s Club President Lisa Marty, and club members Monica Skelton, Mary Anne Scott, Renee Keene and Martha Grantham.

Tullahoma’s newest literary fitness trail received sustaining funding last week when the GFWC Centennial Woman’s Club donated $400 to the Coffee County UT Extension Office.

The city’s Story Book Trail, which opened behind the Coffee County Lannom Memorial Library in February, began as a UT Extension Office initiative. 

According to Becky Waggoner, the co-chair of the club’s Education Community Service Project, the Centennial group was earlier this year presented with the GFWC Focus on Literacy Grant, providing $200 to help sustain the trail.   

She said the club wanted to help keep the trail operational because it combines literacy and fitness in a fun way.

According to Waggoner, the trail will rotate the books featured on the trail twice each month – which means UT Extension agent Belinda Riddle and the library will frequently have to purchase and prepare new books for the trail.

“There’s 25 pages, so they have to buy books to separate the pages and laminate them,” Waggoner said.

Additionally, she said, the library will maintain an interactive function to the trail, where children can participate and potentially win a prize. Those prizes will need to be funded as well, Waggoner said, so the grant will also help keep that program alive.

“That’s what the GFWC Education Committee decided we would focus on, and it was OK’d by our president and board,” Waggoner said. “We were fortunate in receiving the grant money.”

In addition to the GFWC grant, Waggoner said a club member made an anonymous, matching donation to the education committee, bringing the total amount of donation money to $400.

When asked what this donation means for the Story Book Trail, Riddle said first and foremost it means sustainability.

“We had a grant to have the funds to design and build the Story Walk, but then in thinking of the future, as far as … incentives for the children that read the books, as well as adding new books to the trail, we’re going to be looking to local donors to help us,” she said.

While Riddle said there is no set amount of money needed to sustain the Story Book Trail, the funds to keep the trail going and maintained could be in the “couple-thousand” range.

“There’s a lot of supplies that are needed besides the books,” she said. “In order to have them laminated, it’s somewhat expensive, but for the number of children that actually walk the trail and read the trail is very minimal per child, per family.”

According to Riddle, it’s a minimal investment for a maximal reward.

“It’s about education, and we’re really focusing on health,” Riddle said. “Literacy is such a vital component for an individual being able to improve their health. Literacy is really the number one social determinant of health, so reading is important for people’s health.”

Riddle was incredibly thankful to the GFWC Centennial Woman’s Club for the donation, and to the trail’s other donors, who are listed on the trail stations, as well.

Riddle said she is always looking for more donors to keep the trail open for many years. Those who wish to donate to the Story Book Trail are encouraged to contact any of the UT Extension agents in Coffee County, Lyle Russel with Tullahoma Parks and Recreation, Leslie Warren or Kass Von Wurt with Lannom Library, or Vince and Anita Zaccardi with the Tennessee Valley Woodworkers Association.

Riddle’s office can be reached at 723-5141, or interested parties may stop by her office at the Coffee County Administrative Plaza Building, 1331 McArthur St. in Manchester.

Erin McCullough may be reached at emccullough@tullahomanews.com.