Book it: Nanticoke athletes deliver for community

JOHN MEDEIROS jmedeiros@timesleader.com

January 18, 2014

NANTICOKE — There are so many worthy causes that, sometimes, you might not see the one that’s right there in front of you.

Kayla Gronkowski saw one right in front of her — and she did something to help it.

Every day when she leaves the Nanticoke High School complex, she could see one of her favorite places in the city.

“I’ve been going there since I was little,” the Nanticoke student said of the building across Kosciuszko Street from her school. “When I was 3, I was in a play group there. That’s my very first memory of being there.”

Gronkowski devoted her senior project to raising money for the Mill Memorial Library, which serves the Nanticoke area. She teamed with junior Becca Morgis on the endeavor, and their hard work paid off, as the library received a check for $1,200 from the senior.

“I’ve always loved Nanticoke and I’ve always wanted to do something special for it,” four-sport athlete Gronkowski said after a swim meet last week. “There are a lot of big causes that people always look to for something like this. But you give $1,000 to one of those and it really doesn’t make a difference.

“To the library, this means a lot.”

Libraries everywhere are looking for ways to raise funds to grow and change with the times. Formerly a place to find records and VHS tapes — as well as books, of course — libraries are now home to DVDs, computers and nearly everything 21st century. They do what they can by selling books, rulers, bookmarks and such.

The donation from the students gives the branch a great start in the new year.

“It’s not often. I’d say maybe three or four times a year we’ll get a donation like this,” Clementine Kondracki, a library clerk at the Mill branch, said of the four-figure check presented last weekend. “We actually did get a sizable donation from someone in their will.”

Gronkowski’s senior project actually started coming together in her junior year. She developed a basic concept and plan to execute it. Then the process really picked up in August, the same time she started practices with the field hockey and cross country teams — yes, she was a two-sport athlete in the fall — and just as school was starting a new year.

A 5K run/walk was staged on Nov. 16, where the community turned out to support their efforts. About 60 people traversed the course while many others came out just to offer donations. Meanwhile, more than 20 businesses based in Nanticoke made contributions as the students went and made pitches to them.

While the next step for Gronkowski is graduation from Nanticoke High and choosing a college, the annual library run should continue even if her studies take the senior away from home. Morgis — also on the field hockey and cross country teams — is only a junior this year and joined in the process as a springboard for her senior project next year.

“It is a positive project. We hope it will be ongoing with future classes,” Kondracki said. “It would be nice if they continue this endeavor because the kids can see they are doing something right here for the community.”

The unexpected — and very needed — funds will go to the library’s general fund, and aid the facility in keeping up with the times and help ensure the monthly bills are paid.

Library funding in the state has been cut 12 percent in the past five years. For the libraries in Luzerne County, that’s nearly $119,000 less per year to operate on, all at a time when basic costs such as utilities and supplies are on the rise.

“With the price of a book being $20-$25, we need all the help we can get,” Kondracki said. “We’re here in the library trying to figure out how to raise money. We either have to nickel and dime, or have to bring in a promoter to raise funds. Something like this really helps.”

While it looks like Nanticoke has found some additional funding for its library, there’s a way for everyone to help their local branches.

“We have a problem with people returning books,” Kondracki said. “They know where to get the books, but they don’t know where to bring them back to. We spend a lot of money sending letters trying to get the books back on the shelves for the next person.”

First-year Nanticoke cross country coach Chris Thompson designed the 5K course around the school campus and Anthony Fleury served as project advisor.