Forget lame excuses: York County Library accepting food for needy to pay fines

12/05/2013 6:22 AM

12/06/2013 6:22 AM

No longer will somebody at the Clover branch of the York County Library have to claim – and yes, this really happened – that his books were overdue because his car caught on fire.

No more will people have to blame the dog, the mother-in-law, the kids, or the neighbors for not returning books and other stuff checked out for months.

Through the end of the year, all fines at the library’s five branches can be paid off by donating non-perishable food.

For the seventh year, the library’s Food for Fines program is back to give miscreants a chance to clean the slate for a good cause. Each food item or baby item knocks $1 off the fine total.

All food collected at the five regional libraries – Rock Hill, Fort Mill, York, Clover and Lake Wylie – will stay in that area to be distributed to the needy at food pantries.

Colleen Kaphengst, the library’s executive director, came up with the idea in 2007, shortly after taking over the library system at a time when the economy was down and food needs were up. Since then, the idea has become a staple of giving in York County.

The library uses fine money to pay for a small portion of expenses during the year, but gives up that fine money for December to help food pantries stretched thin by winter needs keep shelves stocked. The library also accepts baby food, formula and other items for infants.

Because the library is a non-profit government entity operated by York County, it cannot donate money. But the library can donate all the food it collects in a little over four weeks.

In past years, the donated food has had to be measured not by the pound, but by the ton. Last year the libraries collected and donated 6,364 pounds of food – more than three tons.

“The program gives back to the same community which supports the library,” said Kaphengst. “At this time of year, we can replenish supplies that are depleted during the season as the demand rises. Families with small children and infants, for example, always need baby items.”

The library lent out more than one million books, audiobooks, DVDs and other items last year, and also offers crucial services to people seeking employment, government assistance and other help.

The libraries keep a grocery cart near the front door to collect the food, which volunteers will drop off at food banks.

“We even have had people offer to take extra food on top of the fines,” said Terry Cobb, manager of the Clover branch.

Andrew Dys •  803-329-4065 •

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