Jennifer Lautzenheiser, Henry County Library System assistant director for public services, said the Food for Fines campaign will run through Jan. 31.
“Library patrons have the ability to pay off library fines with nonperishable food items,” she said. “One food item equals $1 in terms of fine forgiveness.”
While most fines are under $10, Lautzenheiser said, some patrons have racked up bills as high as $70.
“January is an optimal time to assist our patrons. Everyone’s budgets tend to be tight following the holidays,” she said. “During busy times, such the holidays, families are out of their routine. This can lead to late library books.”
Lautzenheiser said there are heartwarming examples of generosity, like the dad whose twin sons brought back overdue books.
“He said they’d prayed on the way to the library that the fines would be something they could afford,” she said. “He was thrilled to learn that he could pay with canned goods. He returned with 39 food items to pay his fine.”
Even non-offenders have stepped up to the plate, causing collection bins to overflow.
“We didn’t expect patrons without fines to be so inspired,” Lautzenheiser said. “Plenty of donations are from patrons who just enjoy supporting a good cause.”
The cause is Helping In His Name Ministries, which operates the county’s largest food pantry, serving 1,100 families a month.
Its CEO, Nola Love, said she and Lautzenheiser met at a Henry County Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
“We ate together and she told me about library resources for food pantry families,” Love said about public access computers, resume building software and career development materials available free of charge.
Love told Lautzenheiser their food pantry shelves will empty by February, before the spring food drives replenish the stock. “We saw this as an opportunity to step in and fill a gap,” Lautzenheiser said.
Love said she is delighted to raise awareness of the pantry, for both donors and its consumers.
“It makes me feel good that the community is beginning to reach out,” she said. “Any time one person finds out about us, it means a family won’t go hungry. Every can helps somebody’s table.”