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Library is local woman's 'mission in life'

June 21, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Ten years ago, Beverly Suffecool harnessed the grief she felt over the death of her only child and created The Children's Library out of thin air.

"My library is in memory of Tammy," Suffecool said. "She would have just loved this."

After four moves during that first decade, The Children's Library now is anchored in the basement of Trinity Full Gospel Church, 100 Mont Valla Ave.

The library is open the third Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Suffecool, now 60, worked 17 1/2 years at Citicorp. She retired in February 2003 as a quality specialist.

"I have more time now to devote to the library, but I have less money because I'm not working anymore," Suffecool said.

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She and her husband, Ralph, live on Fairview Mountain near Clear Spring. A trucker, he is still employed.

"We had been married 11 years when Tammy was born," Suffecool said. "She was so small and fragile because of congenital heart disease. The doctors said she wouldn't live six months, but we had her for 10 years."

Unable to do most of the things children love to do, Tammy spent many hours reading and developed a love of books and cassettes.

"In those days, there was no home-schooling, so the Washington County Public Schools provided us with a tutor for Tammy at home," Suffecool said.

When Tammy needed books, the Suffecools ordered them from The Physically Handicapped Library in Baltimore. After Tammy died, Suffecool decided to open The Children's Library at Faith Temple in Cearfoss in the basement of what was then her church.

"Occasionally I would get donations, but mostly I bought all the books myself," Suffecool said. "I'm very selective of what I put in my library, so I prefer money donations rather than gifts of books."

Suffecool said she goes through every book, making sure it is appropriate before she puts it on her shelves. For that attention to detail, she is popular with a lot of home-schoolers and Mennonites.

Her second library was in an abandoned building along U.S. 40 that Suffecool spotted on her travels from Clear Spring into Hagerstown.

"I paid $20 a month rent for that small building," she said, noting that it didn't even have a restroom.

The next spot for the library was the Suffecools' new church, Trinity Full Gospel Church in its former location on Washington Street in Hagerstown.

"I gave them $25 a month and then later $100 a month when they gave me more space," she said.

The church moved to Mont Valla Avenue and The Children's Library did too, with four or five families who frequented the library helping move bookcases and thousands of books last fall.

"I don't pay for this space or for the utilities," Suffecool said.

After 10 years as the only library worker, Suffecool recently has been assisted by a young girl who needed community service hours and volunteered to help restock the shelves when people return books.

"She has stayed on after her hours were done," Suffecool said.

On the Saturdays the library is open, families start showing up early.

"They come in with boxes full of books to return and leave with boxes full of books," she said. "I don't charge any fees, I levy no fines and you can keep a book for a month."

Suffecool stressed that she has books for all ages. But she also pointed out that "the best book" - the Bible - always has been prominently displayed in all her library locations.

Feeling the need for more space again, Suffecool realizes it will be hard to expand without a steady income.

"I'm trying now to get a job at a library or a school library," she said. "Either way, I will still keep The Children's Library going. It is, after all, my mission in life."

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