Fifty years ago, Lynne Walters placed stickers on poster board in hopes of generating interest in a summer reading program at Morton Public Library.
A Junior High student at the time, Lynne was interested in giving youngsters a goal to obtain during the school-free summer days.
“The poster board chart was to track and encourage participation,” Lynne said. “Something that started with very humble beginnings has grown over the years into a program that has become part of the children's summer vacation.”
The motivation to create the summer-reading program came from Lynne’s mother, Bernice Oberlander.
President of Morton Public Library at the time, Oberlander “felt it was important for children to keep their reading skills current during the summer,” Lynne said.
Oberlander served as president of the library board for 28 years and was a library board member for 32 to years.
In retirement fifty years later, Lynne and her husband, Dan, made a decision to focus their charitable contributions on programs that supported various causes. Upon attending a Morton Community Foundation informational meeting, the Walters were inspired by some of the existing funds that were presented to them at the time.
After committing to make a generous contribution to a restricted endowment fund that would provide grants to the library on an annual basis, the Walters approached Scott Witzig, executive director of the foundation, to get the fund started.
During Morton Public Library’s celebration of the facility’s 30th anniversary in March 2012, Witzig announced the establishment of the Bernice L. Oberlander/Lynne R. Walters Library Children's Summer Reading Endowment Fund
“We felt that the concept of MCF's endowment funding would allow our contribution to support the summer reading program indefinitely,” Lynne’s husband, Dan, said. “The fact that the MCF endowments are designed to provide ongoing support for the chosen non-profits was most important to us.”
To this day, the library’s summer reading program is host to more than 900 registered students. Each year, the library invites all the participants who completed their summer reading goal to an annual pool party at the Morton Public Swimming Pool. The program is now entirely funded through the annual grant established in honor of Lynne’s mother, Bernice Oberlander.
“We wanted the grant to allow the librarians to be creative and keep the program operating regardless of future conditions,” Lynne said. “We think summer reading for children is very important for their long term education.”
The Walters said they believe the MCF plays an integral role in community development. They appreciate the impact the foundation can have locally.
“We feel that a strong, active MCF will continue to make Morton a desirable community in which to live in and raise families,” Dan added. “It certainly was for us.”