TRAVERSE CITY — A former Kalkaska County Library patron left a small fortune to the institution, a gift that could help library officials write a new chapter in its history.
Charles “Chuck” Heffer often could be found at the library, where he helped run the garden club and volunteered to help out wherever he was needed.
Heffer, who died in May, left just over $400,000 to the library and earmarked the money for building a new facility.
“This is definitely a giant leap forward,” said library Director Bradley Chaplin.
Library administration tried for years to move to a new, larger building that would be better able to accommodate its 11,000 cardholders.
The existing library is just under 5,000 square feet, Chaplin said. He’d like to house a larger collection — the current collection is more than 40,000 items — offer more meeting spaces and add computers.
“There’s no question that it gets heavy use and they need additional space to do more stuff,” said Lee Sandy, the Kalkaska Public Schools superintendent.
Libraries are important for students when schools are closed, Sandy said.
“It gives them the opportunity to use books, Internet, hear programs from library staff or outside authors,” Sandy said. “They do a lot to encourage students, children to read and become involved in their own learning.”
A .87-mill ballot measure last year would have raised $3.8 million for library construction and provided funding for operating the facility. The millage lost by a 2-to-1 margin.
“I’m glad (Heffer) had the foresight to know how important the library was to the community,” Chaplin said.
Chaplin picked up the $400,493.61 check from the bank on a Friday in January. He was so excited about the donation he stuck it to his refrigerator for the duration of the weekend.
Chaplin said the donation will help the library move toward a new building, though the original plans may be scaled back. Library officials continue to seek grants and other funding sources, Chaplin said.