Fort Mill Times

Pay your Fort Mill Llibrary fines -- with food

Fort Mill Library Branch Manager Karen Manera stacks food collected by the library as part of the Food for Fines program.
Fort Mill Library Branch Manager Karen Manera stacks food collected by the library as part of the Food for Fines program.

During this holiday season, the Fort Mill Public Library is expecting to collect a ton of late fees - literally.

And they aren't sending out a mob to hunt anyone down.

Through a program called "Food for Fines," the library is accepting canned food or other nonperishable items as an alternative payment for late fees.

The food will be collected until Wednesday, Dec. 31, when it will be donated to the Fort Mill Care Center on Banks Street.

"For each item brought in, you get one dollar off your fine," Fort Mill Branch Manager Karen Manera said. "Last year, we ended up with 2,165 pounds of food."

Manera said the library hopes to collect at least that amount this year. She said all the feedback she has heard about the program has been extremely positive.

"It takes a little sting out of paying fines when people know they're donating to the community as well," Manera said.

Manera said people have paid as much as $75 worth of fines by taking advantage of the food substitution.

"Someone said they are bringing in $40 worth today," she said.

Items ranging from shampoo to toilet paper to canned vegetables have been collected since the program began Nov. 28.

"People are really happy when they find out the food is going to the Care Center," said library employee Jodie Smith. "[The Care Center doesn't] usually have enough to put them through the holidays."

Jan Arnold, the food pantry chairperson for the Fort Mill Care Center, said the library's contribution is a huge help during the Christmas season.

"Last year, it impacted us wonderfully," Arnold said. "It's fantastic that it comes at the end of the year when donations are really helpful."

Arnold said she and her son had to take multiple trips in a full pick-up truck to transport the food to the center.

"I was blown away last year when I saw how much food they had," she said.

Arnold said the amount of food donated by the library last year was enough to feed 35 families of three to four for about five days.

"And the library might get some books back that it may have never seen again," she added.

Some people have taken the opportunity to give generously to the shelter, Manera said.

"A lot of people have been bringing more than they owe," she said. "They might owe $4 and bring in six or eight cans."

The idea for the program came from library director Colleen Carney, who saw its success at a Berkeley County library, Manera said.