The largest bequest in recent memory to the Hernando County Public Library system has funded new offerings at two libraries, with enough money remaining to enhance services throughout the five-library system.
Helen M. Card, who volunteered countless hours over 20 years, from 1986 to 2006, at the former Little Red Schoolhouse Library, named the system as a beneficiary in her will. Its share amounted to $100,000.
"It's definitely been the biggest (gift) we've ever gotten since I've been here," said Adam Brooks, who has headed library services since 2011.
Mrs. Card died April 21, 2014, survived only by two grandchildren and a cousin. The bequests were calculated earlier this year upon settlement of her estate.
Betty Geentiens, president of Friends of the Library, recalled that Mrs. Card served when the schoolhouse was a lending library. The facility on Kenlake Avenue has since been converted to a used book store, operated by the Friends, with proceeds benefiting the library system.
Most recently, the bequest purchased a mobile computer lab for the main library in Brooksville. "West Branch and Spring Hill and East Branch all have built-in computer labs," Brooks pointed out, "but the main (library) does not. We didn't have space for a lab here."
For $9,000, the system bought laptops, other mobile devices and a cart, enabling a teaching lab to be set up temporarily for classes in the library's meeting room, then stashed away when other gatherings occupy the space. "Eventually, we could do that at other locations if it pans out," Brooks said.
In September, the system unveiled the Helen M. Card Retro Makerspace at the West Hernando/S.T. Foggia Branch Library in Spring Hill, which offers old-fashioned diversions to inspire creativity and do-it-yourself projects. Its more than a half-dozen stations feature tools and goods to, for example, build with Lincoln Logs, draw with a Spirograph and produce lapel buttons.
About $17,000 from the bequest enabled the lab's installation. "Mostly, we're setting the remainder (of the gift aside) to see how the Makerspace goes and for program events that we don't have budgeted," Brooks said.
Those events range from the popular countywide summer reading program to several history festivals each year and touch-a-truck featuring hands-on visits to library campuses of fire, ambulance and police vehicles.
Bequests to the libraries are rare, Brooks said. But remarkable among donations was a $50,000 memorial gift established in 1991 and paid over eight years in memory of Charles J. Elisha and nine other aviators who died in an air crash at the Brooksville Airfield on July 20, 1944. The memorial, designated for spending on children's materials, was given by Elisha's brother, Charles J. Elisha and family, Fort Mill, S.C.
Brooks noted just two bequests to the system and one to the Friends in recent years. "Every once in a while, a snowbird might say, 'Thanks for helping me, here's $20,'" he said. More often, grateful patrons give to the Friends, he added.
Geentiens of the Friends praised the generosity of Mrs. Card, adding, "We need to let people know about it and let them not forget about the library" when giving donations.
The system's budget for 2016 is $2.57 million with more than $82,000 of the total in grants.
Contact Beth Gray at [email protected]