BANGOR, Maine — The Schaefer-Gordon family is a family with bookshelves. Each member of the four-person unit is an avid reader, but none is an enthused as 8-year-old Ingrid Schaefer.
Ingrid, who turned 8 earlier this month, is using her passion for reading and books to help the Bangor Public Library fund $9 million in renovations and repairs. Instead of gifts this year, she is asking for donations in her name for the library.
Ingrid is not the first child to donate to the project, but according to Lisa Frazell, director of marketing at the library, she has the loftiest goal — $1,000 — a donation level that guarantees her a place on “the wall.”
“She knows she’ll get her name on the donor wall … when she found that out, she asked if that meant someday her grandchildren might see it,” Ingrid’s mother, Gretchen Schaefer, said.
The family doesn’t know how much already has been donated in Ingrid’s name, but she’s been the subject of news stories both in the paper and on television. In addition, when the library board of trustees learned about her efforts, they agreed to match donations up to $500.
Frazell said Ingrid’s money will go toward developing programs, many of which the young girl enjoys attending after school. Hopefully it will also help create a better library for Ingrid’s grandchildren.
“She’s heartwarming, so selfless and just a really cool kid,” Frazell said. “We are able to have this gem in our community and still listen to what people need, so it was nice to hear that Ingrid would directly benefit from the change [in programing].”
Neither of Ingrid’s parents work with books. In fact, her mother is an information technologist at Husson University and her father works at WABI-TV5 in Bangor. But that didn’t stop them from encouraging her to read from the time she was in diapers. Even now, the family reads out loud together every night.
“We’ve always read to her and always provided plenty of books,” Ingrid’s father, Dave Gordon, said. “Now, she’s a voracious reader.”
Ingrid remembers looking at books as a young child. She described those early days as a time when she “just looked at pictures.” Now, she’s into chapter books and series like “The Boxcar Children” and “Diaries of a Wimpy Kid.”
She became interested in donating money to the library when Schaefer told her about the need for renovations. Giving wasn’t a new idea, as the family regularly donates to charities and supports area children’s efforts to fundraise.
Ingrid had previously donated to the library after money and electronics were stolen last year. But this time, she wanted to do something big.
So, along with invitations to her birthday party on June 1, Ingrid sent copies of a handwritten note explaining that “the library is important to me because I love books and the Bangor Public Library has tons, millions, trillions, really a lot of books.”
The idea of charity birthdays, or asking for donations instead of gifts, isn’t anything new. Several organizations statewide and nationally offer families, and particularly children, the chance to do good.
For Schaefer, the idea of giving and the importance of supporting one’s community is another life lesson she and Gordon want Ingrid and her 4-year-old sister Willa to know.
“If you have all of your needs met and most of your wants met, you can give back,” Schaefer said.
Interested in donating to Ingrid’s birthday wish fund? Send a check to the library with the words “Ingrid’s Birthday” in the memo or donate through the library website.
Want to take a page from Ingrid’s book? Consider donating to one of these organizations in your child’s name this year instead of giving gifts.
For your budding artist: The Dreaming Zebra Foundation, based in Portland, Oregon, donates art and music supplies to individuals, schools and other organizations working with youth and the arts both in the U.S. and abroad. Ask party-goers to bring paints, brushes, canvases, sketchbooks or other art supplies to send in, or donate online in your child’s name.
For a sports fan: Hosting a sports-themed party or just have a kiddo who loves everything related to sports? Suggest guests forego giving another ball or bat and instead donate to Good Sports, an organization that provides equipment and athletic clothing to underprivileged children.
For the animal lover: For the child with a soft spot for animals, check out the Animal Welfare Society’s wish list and financial donation options. Ask guests to purchase from the organization’s online list or bring something to the party like dog food or peanut butter for the four-legged creatures. Want to remember a special pet? Have guests send in financial donations in your child’s name. For $200, he or she could have his or her name, or the name of a pet, engraved on a brick at the shelter.
For a doll enthusiast: Guests can decorate a doll blank for the organization Happy Doll Inc., which will then send completed dolls to kids in need. Each guest will receive a tracking number so he or she can see where in the world doll goes. For more information or to request doll kits, visit happydoll.org.