United Methodists provide bookmobile for kids in Appalachia

United Methodists provide bookmobile for kids in Appalachia

A volunteer helps Rev. Mark Fuerstenau load books into the bookmobile at Henderson Settlement.


FRAKES, Ky. (Aug. 5, 2016) -- United Methodists in Ohio have come together to provide a bookmobile so that transportation-challenged children in rural Tennessee and Kentucky will have books to read over the summer.

The converted school bus, loaded with two tons of books, was delivered to Henderson Settlement by a team from the West Ohio Conference on July 11. An additional 1 ½ tons of books were provided to keep the bookmobile replenished.

“We figure God is going to guide the use of it here, just as he guided the building of it,” said the Rev. Mark Fuerstenau.

Fuerstenau, pastor at Pleasant View United Methodist Church and Mount Cory United Methodist Church, said he was inspired to create the bookmobile three years ago, during a tour of the Henderson Settlement campuses.

“I remember it like it was 10 minutes ago,” he said.

In summer 2013, Fuerstenau and his wife, the Rev. D.J. Fuerstenau, were leading a work team to do home-repair for Henderson Settlement. The team represented the clergy couple’s three churches at the time: Middle Point United Methodist Church, Kossuth Zion United Methodist Church, and Elida Zion United Methodist Church

During a tour, the West Ohio team learned that Henderson Settlement had a library on its main campus in Frakes, Ky. However, the mission-advancement director, Michael Feely, said he wished there was a way to get books to the children near the White Oak campus, located within Holston Conference boundaries in Campbell County, Tenn.

“The word ‘bookmobile’ immediately came into my mind, and I knew where that came from,” said Fuerstenau.

See July 11 video from The Courier:




Over the next three years, a series of United Methodist encounters led to the fruition of the dream.

Fuerstenau was visiting his hometown in Delphos, Ohio, when he saw a bus for sale at Trinity United Methodist Church. The congregation’s board of trustees donated the bus for the project.

Don Doty, a Pleasant View member, stored the bus on his farm while work was being done on it. Members of Pleasant View and Middle Point gave $1,200 for a new radiator and battery.

While the seats were being removed from the bus, Doty found a business in Florida with special bookmobile shelving. The business owner turned out to be a United Methodist who provided shelves valued at $9,000 for the cost of $4,000.

“There was so many things that happened like that, we knew that God’s hand was in it,” said D.J. Fuerstenau.

Suddenly, books and donations started coming “from everywhere,” from churches as well as schools and libraries, Mark Fuerstenau said.

When it was time to sort the books, Fuerstenau’s mother was on board to help. Doris Fuerstenau, age 95, is a retired librarian and member of First United Methodist Church of Richmond, Ohio. She was assisted by Gayla Conaway, age 85.

To pay for the gas to move the bookmobile from Doty’s farm in Ohio to Henderson Settlement, the Friendly Fellowship Sunday School Class of Mount Cory had a soup luncheon to raise $100.

On the day the bookmobile was delivered to Henderson Settlement, volunteers on campus for other projects stopped their work to help unload even more donated books from the trailer that came from West Ohio.

“We have about 3,000 work campers come through Henderson Settlement every year,” Feely said. “We will get the volunteers to help us staff the bookmobile and share stories with the kids."

This summer, Henderson Settlement hosted 70 local children during its June-July recreation program. The day after the bookmobile arrived, each kid visited the bookmobile to pick out a book to take home.

“The bookmobile will serve kids here on the Frakes site, but the emphasis will be on the children in Claiborne County and Campbell County in Tennessee over the summer,” Feely said.

Partnerships have been organized with local libraries, Feely said. “There’s enough room in the back of the bus for classroom space, so I’m hoping we will eventually have music and art classes in it.”

Pleasant View, Mount Cory, and other churches will continue to raise money for the upkeep of the bookmobile, Fuerstenau said.


See also:
Books and bus given new purpose as mission project (Putnam Co. Sentinel, 7/16/16)

Church project being completed 'in God's time' (The Courier, 6/6/15)

Kentucky connection: Churches reach out to the poor through Henderson Settlement (The Call, 9/30/13)



Annette Spence

Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.