When Tiffany Parker visited the Soddy-Daisy Community Library for the first time, she was impressed by the welcoming atmosphere and felt she had found her new home away from home.
"I've never been so loved and accepted in a place in my entire life," Parker said of the free library, which was opened by the nonprofit KelCurt Foundation in 2018.
So Parker, a resident of the Middle Valley area, began volunteering at the library, which is free to everyone regardless of where they live and boasts a collection of 23,000 items. In addition to books, patrons can also check out movies, bakeware, puzzles, games and seeds to grow flowers and food.
"They have so many things that my family can participate in," said Parker, who has three children still living at home. "They do movie nights and all kinds of kids' activities, and then also things for adults like book clubs and open mic nights."
In four years the library has grown to serve more than 2,100 patrons, said Kelly Flemings, who cofounded the KelCurt Foundation with Curtis Cecil.
The community library is the foundation's first project. It receives no funding from taxpayers and instead relies on grants and donations for its operation.
The foundation is hoping to boost donations in order to raise the $1 million needed to purchase and renovate a building a few miles away from the library that would allow it to move to a larger location and expand its collection and programming.
Flemings said the library has two storage units filled with items that will not fit into the current space, including more than 18,000 books.
Programs such as children's storytime and classes on topics such as art and gardening are now limited to 36 people, and the library often has to turn people away who want to participate, Cecil said.
The new building would increase the space of the library from about 3,000 square feet to more than 9,000 square feet and would provide five times the outdoor space, which could be used to expand the library's agricultural center and host outdoor events.
People who live outside the Chattanooga city limits are charged $50 for membership to the Chattanooga Public Library, which put its resources out of reach for many Soddy-Daisy residents, said Flemings, a Soddy-Daisy native who was shocked to find his hometown still lacked a library when he moved back to the city after 17 years away.
"The whole purpose of the foundation is to bring the community together," Flemings said. "We want to be an event hub for social activities. It's so much more than just books."
The cost of the new building, the former Family Dollar space at 10188 Dayton Pike in Soddy-Daisy, is $850,000, and the estimated cost to remodel it is $150,000.
The library is accepting donations online through the foundation's website at kelcurtfoundation.org, its Facebook page at facebook.com/thesdcl, or through a crowdfunding campaign at gofund.me/f6d378a8. As of Thursday afternoon, the GoFundMe page had raised $2,372 toward its $1 million goal.
Donations can also be made in person at the library, 9619 Dayton Pike, Suite C.
For more information, call the library at 423-800-2367 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Emily Crisman at email@example.com or 423-757-6508.