PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Karen Monson had just moved to Presque Isle with her husband and three children in February 2008 when a co-worker told her about the annual Star City Holiday Light Parade.
The family had never experienced a nighttime holiday parade, in which the lengthy line of floats, firetrucks, antique cars and other elements all are decorated with resplendent white, blue, red and green lights.
While she said earlier this week that her entire family was “awed” by how beautiful the procession was, the thing that impressed everyone the most occurred when two young adults dressed as elves handed each of her children a book.
“My kids were just over the moon,” she said. “The minute that we got home from the parade, they wanted me to read them a story. They still look forward to going every year.”
For the seventh consecutive year, students and employees at Northern Maine Community College are collecting new and used children’s books to distribute along the parade route. This year, the college has partnered with the Aroostook County Action Program to assist them in their efforts.
Colleen Harmon, a business technology instructor at NMCC, launched the project seven years ago and has been the driving force behind the literacy effort ever since. The initiative evolved both as an idea to give away something that had a connection to the nature of the college and what it offers the community, as well as providing area children with something from which they would benefit.
Book collection for the parade, which will be held Dec. 4, began earlier this fall. But project organizers said this week that more books are needed to ensure that all children along the parade route go home with one.
Many individuals, community members, NMCC students and ACAP students and families already have donated to the cause, bringing in new and used children’s books to NMCC and to ACAP sites throughout Aroostook County. Several County organizations, including Box of Books, First Book of Aroostook and Zippel Ele-mentary School, have contributed boxes of books. The most recent donation of more than 300 books was made by members of the Caribou Rotary Club.
Caribou Rotarian Joyce Knorr said the club wanted to support what she called a “very worthwhile community project.”
“Members have been bringing books to donate at each of our weekly meetings for the past month,” she said.
Once again, NMCC and ACAP volunteers will dress as elves and hand out the hundreds of books to children of all ages who come to enjoy the parade.
Harmon said her goal is to have at least 3,000 books on hand in time for the parade.
Karen Monson, a stay-at-home mom who plans to take her three children and some of their friends to the parade next month, said all of the children are “excited” to see what new book titles they will get this year.
“I really credit the college for this idea,” she said. “When you take children to a parade, you expect they will come home with lots of candy, and you kind of just let them eat it because it is the holiday season and all. But there is no real benefit to it. This book initiative is so different, and it is just fabulous. I wish that every child could take part in something like this.”
Individuals or organizations with new or used children’s books to donate toward the project may drop off books at the information window in the main lobby of the Christie building at NMCC, 33 Edgemont Drive, Presque Isle; ACAP Main Office, 771 Main St., Presque Isle; ACAP Park Street Center, 44 Park St., Presque Isle; ACAP Employment & Training, 91 Military St., Houlton; ACAP Fort Kent Child Care Center, 40 Alfalfa Ave.; or ACAP Caribou Child Care Center, Bowles Road, Caribou.
The book collection effort will continue through Dec. 1. For more information, or to arrange for pickup of a larger quantity of books, contact the NMCC development and college relations office at 768-2809.