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Faces of Success: Reading Roundup Benefits the Imagination Library of Middle Tennessee Program

Book clubs provide people with a social atmosphere to discuss their interests in reading and books. United Way’s Reading Roundup Fundraiser Shindig, benefiting the Imagination Library of Middle Tennessee program gave the idea of a book club a whole new meaning.

“My husband and I both enjoyed the music and that made for a really fun and exciting evening,” said SunTrust employee Carolyn Ermey. “The atmosphere was easy and casual, but not too casual. I don’t think you could have had a better place for an event like this.”

The seventh annual Reading Roundup had a very different vibe than the previous six, in part because this year’s event was held in downtown Nashville. 

“I had never been to The Bell Tower before and it felt like it really filled up as the night went on,” said Theresa Carl, president of the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation, United Way’s Imagination Library of Middle Tennessee program partner. “People started to dance and that was something new that I had not seen in previous years.”

More than 230 people attended the 2015 fundraising celebration featuring great food, music and a silent auction. Everyone came for different reasons. The goal for the evening was simple, to raise money to pay for books so that more children could be impacted by the Imagination Library of Middle Tennessee. The program provides one book per month to children from birth to age 5 in Davidson, Williamson and Sumner Counties at no cost to families, regardless of income. There are currently 35,000 children enrolled; that’s an increase of 2,000 children since United Way began managing the program in 2013.

“Back when I was a child, there wasn’t anything like the Imagination Library,” said Ermey. “We didn’t have a lot of money so we couldn’t afford to go out and buy books. This is a way to provide a book to a child that maybe can’t afford to have them in their home.”

As the night wore on, the crowds grew larger, the music a little louder and the atmosphere was nothing like one usually found at a typical fundraising event. Images of 57 United Way Imagination Library Instagram contestants filled up display screens on monitors throughout the 140-year-old venue. The contest commemorated the 10 year anniversary of the Imagination Library of Middle Tennessee program and also reminded everyone why the evening was so important.

“The children in these pictures represent our future,” said United Way of Metropolitan Nashville President & CEO Eric Dewey. “They help us connect with the children who have been directly impacted by the Imagination Library of Middle Tennessee and also reiterate the significance of this event.”

The combination of ticket sales, the generosity of corporate sponsors and silent auction donors, as well as the benevolence of those in attendance will help cover the cost of distributing books for almost 1,800 children for an entire year. Results that serve as yet another reminder of how the power of partnership with United Way can have a transformative impact on a child’s education.

“The availability of books for anybody is great but for people who may not be able to afford them, that’s huge,” said Ermey. “United Way is uniquely positioned to know the needs of individuals and organizations in the community and they are able to allocate funding better than any one individual can.”

That Friday night at The Bell Tower was like music to everyone’s ears. As the band wrapped up its final set and people headed for the exits, you only hoped that the Imagination Library of Middle Tennessee program was the song they just couldn’t get out of their heads.