Chicago Girl Scout opens door to reading for families in Mosses

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 16, 2006

submitted to the times-journal

The &8220;little golden door&8221; to reading stands ajar for the children of Lowndes County, thanks to an enterprising Girl Scout from Illinois and the book-loving Sister Ann Chaput, B.V.M., Director of the Good Shepherd Catholic Center in Mosses.

Over the past year, Sara Caddigan of the Chicago suburb of Oak Lawn, Ill., has collected and shipped over a dozen boxes of books to Edmundite Missions’ Good Shepherd Center. From there, Sister Ann distributed the volumes to children and families in schools, churches and individually, leading young readers &8220;into fairyland, or countries strange and far,&8221; as the lines of Adelaide Love’s familiar poem, &8220;A Book,&8221; proclaim.

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The book project not only completed requirements for Sara’s Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest honor in scouting, but taught the high school senior &8220;not to take anything for granted.&8221;

She learned about the need for books in the rural Black Belt region through her father’s association with Sister Ann’s brother, John. Both work at Midwest Interstate Electric Company in the Windy City.

The Mosses community doesn’t have a library, just a few shelves of books at City Hall so Sister Ann began looking for ways to bridge that gap. &8220;I heard how they were looking for donations, so I put together a book drive with my grammar school, church, family, friends and high school,&8221; said Sara, a student at Marist Catholic High School in Chicago. &8220;We were told how they basically had nothing, and we have such easy access to books and supplies.&8221;

So Sara, who is a member of St. Catherine’s of Alexandria Parish church and attended its grammar school, began the project at age 16 and completed it this year when she turned 17. She collected more than 1,300 books and shipped many to Selma in 50-pound cartons. When she exhausted her shipping funds, Sara donated the rest to children in her area.

While some of the books were second-hand, &8220;they were still in good shape, and the Random House publishers sent me just over 200 brand-new books.&8221;

Included were Tree House books, Boxcar children’s series and Judy Blume stories, among many more.

Sister Ann distributed the books through several Lowndes County projects including a local health fair, the Motherread program, preschools, elementary schools and a children’s group reading project. &8220;They (the books) are out in circulation all over the county,&8221; Sr. Ann said. &8220;Everything she sent was in excellent condition, and worked out nicely for our ministry.&8221;

Sara, who plans to pursue medical studies after high school, also collected and sent school supplies as well as inexpensive tote bags on which she had written, &8220;Let’s Read!&8221;

And now, the children of Lowndes County are going &8220;places where they’ve never been before!&8221; (Dr. Seuss)

Getting books to children, mothers and grandmothers is just one of the many ministries Sr. Ann offers through the Good Shepherd Center. She also runs several senior education programs at the Center and in churches throughout Lowndes County, teaches at the Lowndes County jail and runs an extensive food box ministry. The Center is one of several outreach ministries operated by the Edmundite Missions in Selma.