Fourteen years ago, the small room behind several heavy metal security doors at the Benton Franklin Juvenile Justice Center in Kennewick was an vacant meeting room with empty shelves lining the walls.
Today, thanks to a continued effort from Tri-City Kiwanis Club members like Bette and George Evans, the room has been transformed into a functioning library filled with more than 2,000 books and magazines.
The Richland couple have been involved since the inception of the service project in 2002.
40 Books and magazines checked out each week
Originally, the library was a joint project between the Juvenile Justice Center and the Richland Public Library with an initial donation from the Kiwanis Club of Richland.
A core group of 25 Kiwanis volunteers from the Tri-Cities Industry, Columbia and Richland clubs operate the Kiwanis Library about three hours every Monday and Wednesday.
Juvenile offenders check out an average of 40 books and magazines each week.
“The reception from the inmates and the guards has been tremendous. They really like it. It’s very important to them because they don’t have whole lot to do,” said coordinator George Evans.
The library is an ongoing service project of the Kiwanis Club of Richland. An agreement between the club and the juvenile justice center was signed in September 2015.
Many of the books are donated by Juvenile Justice Center staff and local Kiwanis club members. Evans says that books bought new are often the most popular with the incarcerated teens.
“They’re very good about bringing things back. I encourage the guards to go out and search for (books) because sometimes the kids are reading their book and they’re not finished in two weeks and they want to keep it. So they tend to hide it,” Evans said with a hearty laugh.
Bob Brawdy: 509-582-1548