When Jack Houston watches his wife Joanna read to their grandchildren, he’s delighted to see their little faces light up when they revel in a good book. "I truly believe in nurturing youth to bring about a better future and build a better community," said Jack, the Freemason who spearheaded the generous donation of 44 bicycles to the Bikes for Books Summer Reading program at Sno-Isle Libraries.
Since 2007, the Sultan-Monroe Masonic Lodge #160 has been donating two bikes (one for boys and one for girls) each year to the Sultan Library and two bikes to the Monroe Library as an incentive prize to encourage reading. Over the years, Jack’s enthusiasm for this program grew. For 2013, Jack was determined to realize his vision of providing bikes to all 21 of Sno-Isle’s community libraries, plus the bookmobile. That meant a total of 44 bikes!
Jack rallied together his Sultan-Monroe brothers to gather support from several other lodges, and secure funds from nineteen individual donors. The Freemasons of Washington were joined in their efforts by the Monroe Fred Meyer store that eagerly helped out by reducing the price of the bikes and renting a large storage container to hold and assemble the bikes.
Jay Jones, store manager of the Monroe Fred Meyer, says he “believes in the importance of getting young people involved in reading and learning, which is in line with Fred Meyer’s company values of being involved in the community and taking care of the future leaders of tomorrow.”
Jay praises Juanita Freeman, home manager for Fred Meyer, for her diligence in ordering the bikes, negotiating the amazing deal on the reduced price, and working with the lodges on a central place to pick up the bikes.
On May 2, Jack and his wife Joanna, with the help of Freemason Wally Watkins, delivered the fully assembled bikes to Sno-Isle Libraries.
The bikes are used as an incentive for school-age children to participate in the Summer Reading program. For every 10 books or 1000 pages a child reads, they earn one chance to win a bike through a random drawing. Kids and their parents can visit any Sno-Isle community library to get started or visit www.sno-isle.org/summerreading to print out a reading log and entry form.
The Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation will supplement the prize by providing a safety helmet for each child who wins a bike. “The Foundation takes pride in enriching the minds of children and we want to keep those minds safe,” said Angelique Leone, Foundation executive director.
Jack thinks back, “I remember the first time I saw one of the kids win. He was a young boy who just stood back and said, ‘I can’t believe I actually won this bike!’ I’ll never forget this moment that was thrilling for him. It’s so worthwhile to see these kids enjoy what they’re winning and what they’ve accomplished.”
The Bikes for Books program culminates at the end of the summer when the bikes are awarded to the 44 lucky readers. Jack and Joanna will see the fruits of their labor when they attend this year’s celebration ceremonies to see little faces light up when they take home a bike for their reading accomplishments.