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A Well-Read Program: Library Brings Books to Homebound Elderly

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Darlene Hopkins’ white Mustang is more like a library on wheels than an ordinary car. Neatly packed into blue canvas bags in the trunk are mysteries, romance novels and even books on audiotape, picked to suit the literary tastes of homebound readers.

Hopkins, a volunteer at the Main Library in Orange, delivers books each month to 13 readers at the Community Garden Tower, a residence for elderly people who cannot get to the library and would otherwise not be able to enjoy novels and other literary works.

“If we didn’t read, I don’t know what we’d do,” said Frank Stark, 88, a five-year resident of the Tower. “Barbara reads about a book and a half a night,” he said, nodding to his wife of 66 years.

The 4-year-old delivery program currently serves about 110 homebound, mostly elderly, readers in Orange, volunteer coordinator Kathy Kelton said. But with a growing demand for the service, the program could easily use 10 more volunteers, she said.

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“This is one thing they have to look forward to,” Kelton said. “Some of them can’t get out and are considered shut-ins, and they really like interaction with people from the outside. . . . Sometimes volunteers (bring) birthday cards and Valentine cards to patrons, so it’s more than just a book service.”

Hopkins, a retired finance supervisor for the city, lugs books three bags at a time from her car to the Tower’s elevator. On a recent visit, she stopped to chat with each patron about favorite authors or the month’s news, and was introduced to three more residents who wanted to sign up for the service.

At 103, Charlie Hinton has “read everything we have,” Hopkins said while visiting her oldest patron. Hopkins said she delivers about a dozen titles each month to Hinton and his wife Dorothy, 84.

“I read slow but I absorb what I read,” said Hinton, a former accountant who loves the Westerns of author Louis L’Amour. “She just brings so many books that I don’t know what to read.”

Each participant in the book program fills out a card expressing their literary interests and favorite authors, and each month librarians select titles they think the readers will enjoy. Some months the selections are more successful than others.

“Already read this one,” said Margaret Bergeron, 77, dipping into one of Hopkins’ canvas bags, which on this occasion contains 7 books.

But a moment later, Bergeron found a book, “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle-Stop Cafe” by actress Fannie Flagg, that brought on a more enthusiastic response.

“Oh!” she exclaimed suddenly. “This is the one we were talking about the other day!”

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While Bergeron loves to do needlepoint and play cards, she said reading makes her happiest.

“You know what I say,” she said, “a good book is much better than a poor companion.”


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