Sister Lakes teen builds Little Free Library for Girl Scout project

SISTER LAKES — Fourteen-year-old Megan Willis has always loved to read. The Sister Lakes resident and student at St. Joseph’s Lake Michigan Catholic has been reading for as long as she can remember, dipping her nose into every book she could get her hands on.

Now that she is older, she is hoping to help others sail away with a book through her recently completed Girl Scouts project.

“Reading is just fun and everyone should do it,” she said. “But not everyone has the option to or has books to read, which is why I wanted to help with that.”

As part of Willis’ Silver Award Girl Scouts project, she installed a Little Free Library in front of Mitchell Lawn Care and Landscape LLC, 67946 M-152, Dowagiac. Anyone can come to the library at any time and either take a book or leave a book. It is suggested that when taking a book, a person should leave a book in its place, but it is not required.

Little Free Library is a nationwide nonprofit organization and movement that inspires a love of reading, builds community and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world, according to the organization. Little Free Libraries provide 24/7 access to books, seeking to encourage a love of reading and provide neighborhoods an opportunity to foster pride in a common project.

“There weren’t a lot of libraries around for miles except for the one in the elementary school, so I thought we could get one for all the adult books, all the teen books, all the younger kid books and get them all together,” Willis said. “For my birthday, I asked for books instead of gifts, and we were able to stock [the library]. … We also got donations from family and friends to get this started.”

The library that Willis built is in the shape of a boat to honor Sister Lakes and the lakeside activity in the area. The shape of the library proved to be the most challenging part of the project, but Willis said she loves the way the library turned out and that she would not change it.

“I didn’t just want to do a box,” she said. “It had to be unique.”

“She was determined,” added her mother Michelle Pitcher. “With the help of some local people, we were able to figure out how to put a door on a boat, and it has turned out great.”

Willis and Pitcher said the community has been responding well to the project, having gained a lot of community attention through the Sister Lakes Little Free Library Facebook page.

“You can see that we are already starting to run low on books. We will have to restock it soon,” Willis said. “Everyone seems to really like this and appreciate that it is here, and I’m glad that people support it.”

The Little Free Library is far from Willis’ first community service project. She has been volunteering and working on community projects for years as a Girl Scout, as evidenced by her vest, filled with colorful patches and pins of her completed projects. Already, she is looking forward to her next project as a Girl Scout and is hoping the community will embrace the Little Free Library and take it on as a community establishment, she said.

“This used to be my baby, but now it is the community’s baby that they have accepted with open arms,” she said. “Everyone should be able to have access to books and to read. … This will give people the ability to get a book anytime they want, and that’s a really cool thing for Sister Lakes.”

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