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Keep ME Open: Belgrade teacher gives gift cards to students to support new bookshop

Oliver & Friends Bookshop and Reading Room opened last month. One teacher found a way to support the small business while also encouraging summer reading.

BELGRADE, Maine — Reading offers new experiences, it expands our world and, educates us on different topics.

In an effort to support a new small business in the town of Belgrade, a 4th-grade teacher from Belgrade Central School, Shawna Lachance, started a fundraising effort to purchase Gift Cards from Oliver & Friends Bookshop and Reading Room for all of her students. 

"Typically I would have an ice cream party on the playground on the last day of school, but obviously that could not happen, so I was just trying to think of what I could do for the kids to bring them some joy," said Lachance.

"Originally I had thought a $5 gift card, and then someone was like. 'well why don't you do a $10 gift card?' I said,  'that sounds great,' so I posted it on my Facebook and within 55 minutes, I have received double of what I had originally planned," said Lachance.

Lachance was able to raise enough to purchase $25 gift cards for each of her 19 students.

“When I decided to open my own bookstore, I never dreamed I would be doing so in the middle of a pandemic. To have this kind of support from the community means everything. I’m so grateful to Shawna and those who donated, and I can’t wait to have the kids in my store!” said Renee Cunningham, owner of Oliver & Friends Bookshop and Reading Room.

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The bookshop opened in May, and the teachers' project was her way to end the year on a positive note for her students plus give a boost to this news small business that opened during the coronavirus pandemic.

Cunningham and Lachance both agree physical books can educate and even help people escape reality, especially with our social media platform driven worlds.

"It expanded my world in ways that social media or nothing else could have done," said Cunningham.

Credit: NCM

Lachance hand-delivered the $25 gift cards to each of her students. This gave kids the experience to browse and choose a new book of their choice for summer reading.

"Sometimes it can take you on an adventure, you never know what's in the book unless you start reading!" said 4th grader Anthony Parisi.

"I usually read at night to help me fall asleep better," said Maddy Tracy, also a 4th grader.

Check out our new expanded hours! We're also still happy to provide curbside pick up if you prefer to shop that way.

Opening a brand new business during a pandemic has been a challenge for Cunningham, but luckily 19 families will enter her front door to browse her new store to select books for summer reading.

Oliver & Friends Bookshop and Reading Room is located at 87 Main Street in Belgrade. It is open Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m and Saturday's 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. and Sunday's 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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