Let’s hear it for free knowledge.

Let’s hear it for free knowledge.

The Friends of the Gulf County Public Library received two donations last Thursday to help purchase new books, videos and audiobooks for local readers.

The volunteer group received a check from the staff and management of Duren’s Piggly Wiggly for $250. The donation was presented to the group by store representative Suzanne Doran.

“The library provides free knowledge to the public,” said Doran. “This donation will help with purchasing books and keep the library thriving.”

The second donation, amounting to $910, came from the Reid Avenue Bunco Babes, most of whom are also friends of the library.

During the 13th annual Ghosts on the Coast celebration held on Halloween night, the Bunco Babes held a fish fry fundraiser and served up fresh mullet to attendees.

Over two-and-half years the Bunco Babes have raised more than $10,000 for the library as funding for the facility has been consistently cut by governments over several years.

 “The value of the library to the community can’t be expressed in words,” said President of the Friends and former school teacher Cathy Colbert. “When people in town were laid off, the library’s computers helped them find new work, file for unemployment, print their resumes or sign up for Medicare.”

Due to dwindling funds, the library is only open on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, but the Babes hope to see the establishment open seven days a week in the future.

“When the economy dipped, the Bunco Babes came on board,” said Friend and Bunco Babe Dana Boyer. “The library provides certain amenities that are important to the community.”

The Babes believe that the library might be Port St. Joe’s most valuable asset, so much so that they often spend more time fundraising than Bunco-playing.

In addition to providing books for children and adults, a variety of audiobooks and family friendly DVD videos, library employees celebrate National Library Month in April and operate a summer reading program every Tuesday in June.

Used books are sold on-site at a discount and free Wi-Fi is provided to all visitors. An entire wing of the building houses the Alfred DuPont Florida Historical and Genealogy Room, which is a free resource to anyone in the community interested in learning more about their family history.

Keeping up with technology trends, the library rents books directly to Kindle e-Book readers. Those with a library card can go online to www.nwrls.com and with a few clicks have a book sent to their digital device. Books are rented for two weeks and can be ordered from the comfort of home or a different country altogether.

Colbert said that snowbirds make frequent use of the facility, often picking up a library card for the duration of their stay whether it be a few weeks or months.

The Friends of the Library are more than 60 members strong and the facility registered 92 new library cards last year. Those interested in joining the organization can become a member for just $10 a year. Membership forms are available at the library front desk.

Colbert and Boyer agreed that none of the Babe’s donations would have been possible without the support of the public.

“There’s so much generosity in the community,” said Boyer. “It’s a great place to be.”

Colbert and her husband, Kesley, are lifetime members of the Friends. She said that the most gratifying part of her membership is seeing the library grow and watching the community make use of it.

“Reading stimulates imagination and creativity,” said Colbert. “We’re a community of lifetime learners.”

The Friends of the Library, which formed more than 20 years ago, is an organization dedicated to assisting the Gulf County Public Library meet needs that are beyond the facility’s budget.

At the Halloween fish fry, the Bunco Babes served more than 150 meals. The St. Joe Shrimp Company donated 400 pounds of mullet; Sunset Coastal Grill provided coleslaw, cheese grits were cooked by Carol Dow, Boyer Signs donated signage and the city of Port St. Joe set up tents and donated tables and chairs. Additionally, Linda and Buddy Wood donated $250 toward expenses.

3G Realty donated a space for the Babes to use and cooks included Bill Kennedy, Steve Wich, Mark Haddock, Jimmy Rogers and Charles Radcliff.