GALLERY ONE EIIIEVEN unveiled the first 20 boxes of the Vernon Parish Book Nook project on the Historic Courthouse lawn Friday afternoon.

Two years ago this project was suggested by Leila Pollard, a volunteer and activist in the Leesville Main Street program. She and Tony McDonald, coordinator for GALLERY ONE EIIIEVEN, worked on designs, plans and funding ideas to get the project off the ground. The concept is popular in thousands of communities across the country.

“Little Lending Libraries” – weather-proof boxes — are set out in the community and seeded with books, and children and adults are encouraged to borrow, read and return the books. The project encourages reading and family activity.

The organizers of the Book Nook project wanted to take it a few steps further. Ten locations were chosen in the Leesville Main Street District that would be sites for the boxes. The spacing was so that a family, or individuals, would be encouraged to visit all of the locations, creating a walking trail of about 1.5 miles through the Main Street District.

Then an art component was added. Twenty local and regional artists were asked to decorate and embellish the boxes, creating a bit of public art along the trail.

A budget was developed for the initial 10 boxes (Phase I) and another 10 were planned for areas in the city outside the Main Street District and in other communities in the parish (Phase II).

Fundraising ensued, and commitments were made from The Vernon Arts Council, GALLERY ONE EIIIEVEN, and the Art 4 the Parks Committee for some funding. Then an Angel appeared.

Last year, Judge James “Jim” Mitchell, a long-time Vernon Parish resident, passed away in July. Judge Mitchell was a Lions Club member, supporter of the Louisiana Lions Camp for Crippled Children, and an advocate for reading and education. His widow, Michelle Price Mitchell, heard of the Book Nook Project and provided a donation in his name to fully fund what was needed for Phase I and Phase II.

This generous donation gave the green light to produce 20 Vernon Parish Book Nooks and their

installation in town and around the parish.

Plans were announced Friday to add 10 more boxes.