COVINGTON - The Christmas tree in the lobby of the Newton County Library is more than a decoration for the holiday season - it's also a fundraiser.
For the fourth year, Friends of the Newton County Library is sponsoring a Gift Tree at the library until Jan. 2.
"It was started from an idea that one of the staff members saw at another library in the United States," said Greg Heid, director of the library. "We thought it was a great idea."
The tree is decorated with paper ornaments, each printed with the name of a book or audio visual item and the amount it costs to buy that item.
Paperback books are listed for $10, children's books for $20, adult books for $25, DVD titles for $20, audio books on cassette or CDs for $75 or a general donation of any amount.
"We have a lot of people giving between $10 and $25, but we've also had some $50 ones," Heid said.
As of Thursday afternoon, the fundraiser already had collected about $1,500, Heid said.
He said making the donation only takes a couple of minutes. Guests who choose to donate can pick a specific title from the library's Wish List or choose one of their own.
Along with the donation, guests can have their name or another person's name put on a book plate that will be placed on a book or DVD when it arrives at the library in mid- to late January.
"Donating to the library by buying a book or video is a perfect gift for anyone on your Christmas list who you cannot think what to get for them," said C. C. Bates, president of the Friends of the Newton County Library, in a statement released by the library. "I encourage everyone to help purchase titles for the library."
All money raised will go toward the purchase of books which will be ordered from select vendors.
"We do get discounts, so we get a good bang for our buck," Heid said.
He said the Friends usually present the library with the money the first week in January, and the library will purchase the books over the first two weeks in January and send out thank you letters to those who donated.
Last year, the Gift Tree raised $2,500 to purchase 120 books, paperbacks and DVDs for the Children's Room and general collections at the library.
"We hope to raise more than $2,600 this year for the library," Bates said.
Heid said what the library chooses to buy next year will determine how many items will be bought.
"Some years we have had to buy encyclopedia sets; some years we want to beef up a certain section," he said.
Heid said the library receives about $160,000 each year from the county, city of Covington and Newton County School Systems, as well as any other money the Friends raise through memberships, book sales and author visits.
"We rely a great deal on the Friends of the Library to help us purchase newer books and other materials for our growing population to read or view," Heid said, adding that the library is home to 142,000 items.
The library also receives funds from sales of its used books and grants it receives.
Heid said the extra help from the Gift Tree allows the library to purchase books and other items it otherwise wouldn't receive.
"We are so fortunate to have Friends of the Library and the citizens of Newton County to help us during this time of giving," he said. "Every dollar that can be raised through the efforts of the Friends' Gift Tree brings many dollars worth of benefits to the community."
Michelle Floyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.