United Way of Southwest Minnesota (UWSWMN) is a recipient of a $500 grant from Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative’s Operation RoundUp Trust Fund and the member-owners of the cooperative to support the Imagination Library book program for local children. Operation RoundUp is supported by the member-owners of Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative as a way to strengthen local communities and programs in the cooperative’s service territory. This grant will support the cost of the books and delivery to registered children ages birth to five in the UWSWMN service area.
In 1996, the Dolly Parton Imagination Library Program was launched to benefit the children of her home county (Sevier) in East Tennessee. Dolly's vision was to foster a love of reading among her county's preschool children and their families by providing them with the gift of a specially selected book each month. By mailing high quality, age-appropriate books directly to their home, she wanted children to be excited about books and to feel the magic that books can create. This program would also ensure that every child would have access to books in their home, regardless of their family’s income.
The program became so popular that in the year 2000 Parton announced that she would make the program available to any community that was willing to partner with her and to financially support their own program locally. In 2005, UWSWMN became the local affiliate for the region. The program is free to families with children under the age of five in qualifying counties, but is dependent on donations to fund the cost of the books and delivery.
Currently, 2,357 local children receive a book in the mail each month. UWSWMN supports children in the following school districts: Balaton, Canby, Clarkfield, Dawson/Boyd, Echo, Fulda, Hendricks, Ivanhoe, Lake Benton, Lakeview, Lynd, Marshall, Milroy, Minneota, Murray County Central, Russell-Tyler-Ruthton, Tracy, Walnut Grove-Westbrook, and Yellow Medicine East.