Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Betty Klein, a teacher for Endeavor and Voyager Secondary School reads with students.
The library at the Madera County Juvenile Detention Facility has received a shipment of books and a new name — the Al Patchell Memorial Library.
The donation came on behalf of the Sunrise Rotary Club, which worked with Deputy Chief Probation Officer Paul Deorian, who was active in expanding the library’s collection.
“Part of Anita Damiano’s mission as Sunrise Rotary President last year was literacy,” wrote the Rotary Club’s incoming president and Madera Deputy County Counsel Miranda Neal. “In thinking about literacy projects, and as a long-time advocate for children’s rights, I mentioned to Anita that I was interested in a library project for Madera children who find themselves incarcerated.”
The donation to the library was approximately 350 books, which included the works of Rudyard Kipling, John Steinbeck, and J.R.R. Tolkien. A further $1,000 was donated for books by Judge Jones. According to Neal, more books are still being purchased with the money.
Patchell, for whom the library is now named, was Jones’ late husband. He served as the deputy chief for the juvenile facility before retiring in 2008. He passed away last year.
“He was not only a good person, a good friend, he was a really good husband, (and) father,” said Deputy Chief Probation Officer Chris Childers, who began to choke up at the dedication of the library on Friday. “I hope when people come in here, and see his name, the story is told of what a good man he was.”
The effort to fill the library, according to Betty Klein, an English teacher for Endeavor Secondary School, and Voyager Academy, the schools that operate in the facility, saw the students themselves played a part in choosing which books would be donated and used.
“The students actually filled out a survey stating which books they would prefer. They named certain authors that they would like to read, and certain titles,” Klein said.
These lists, which were written by Damiano and Neal, were then given to Klein, who distributed them to her students.
“We’ve had a wonderful relationship with the Sunrise Rotary, and this is going to really enhance literacy for our students, both reading ... and in writing skills,” Klein concluded.
Reading and writing has also helped at least one of Klein’s pupils through a dark point in her life, which she opened up about at the dedication of the library.
“An incident happened to where I tried committing suicide, and it was just a lot of built up emotions, bottled up for so long, and some things I felt I couldn’t talk to councilors or to really speak about. I started writing,” a youth at the facility said. “Writing however I felt, what I was going through, and it really helped my days go by, especially when in a place like this.”
The students at Voyager have also won prizes in literary contests with Madera Unified students, and one youth even ventured outside the facility to read poetry at Yosemite High School.