When asked whether he has much in the way of artistic ability, Ben Goldfarb laughed. He normally
doesn’t venture much beyond stick figures.
But he painted happily yesterday — creatively, even — along with more than a dozen other
volunteers who were turning old newspaper sales boxes into tiny libraries filled with books for
“Good thing it’s for children,” Goldfarb said. “Outside the lines is OK.”
The National Volunteer Week project, one of thousands throughout the country, wraps up today
with volunteers placing six Little Free Libraries at nonprofit agencies on Columbus’ South and Near
East sides and in the Linden, Franklinton and Hilltop neighborhoods.
The effort was sponsored by HandsOn Central Ohio, the region’s primary volunteer and resource
referral agency, and by Besa, a newer organization that links people to community needs and manages
employee-volunteer projects for area companies.
“Everything we do is focused on how to engage the working professional in giving back,” said
Besa founder Matthew Goldstein. He said he named the organization after an Albanian term for the
belief that people can overcome differences and join to solve community problems.
The message seems to resonate: At this point, Goldstein said, he has more volunteer demand than
projects ready to tackle.
“Over half of our volunteers come back,” he said. “We’re managing about 30 high-impact
community-service projects a month.”
The Little Free Library movement, started in 2009 by a Minnesota man who operates the nonprofit
company, quickly eclipsed its goal of 2,510 libraries. Supporters estimate there are more than
25,000 worldwide and more on the way.
The small libraries might look different depending on who creates them. But all turn on the same
idea — encouraging users to take a book or leave a book as needed.
“Very neat,” said Brandyn McElroy, a Safelite AutoGlass employee who was painting boxes
yesterday in warehouse space at 400 W. Rich St. “I love that it’s available for little kids to run
by and grab something.”
Stephanie Sparrow Hughes of HandsOn Central Ohio said the repurposed newspaper boxes (donated by
The Dispatch) will sit in, or outside, places with plenty of kids. Six area employers,
including the Columbus Metropolitan Library, provided the volunteers and materials for the
Goldfarb, 24, said he had been looking for ways to aid the community since graduating from
college. The link between Besa and his employer, WWCD (102.5 FM), made it easy.
“I volunteered at a community garden, we finished a playground at a local school, and now this,”
he said. “It’s nice.”