2019 Be More Award Recipients are VITAL

Be More Awards 2019

The ​​City of Bloomington Volunteer Network Be More Awards is the local community's way of honoring and applauding the outstanding, but often unrecognized efforts of its volunteers. Ten awards are presented annually during a celebration honoring nominees in which a $500 check is presented to each of the recipient's volunteer organizations in honor of their outstanding service.

Congratulations to Volunteers in Tutoring Adult Learners (VITAL) tutor Molly Gleeson for winning the 2019 Be More Knowledgeable (Education/Literacy) award, and to VITAL tutor David White for winning the 2019 Be More Dedicated (Lifetime of Service) award.

Molly Gleeson has been an adult literacy tutor with VITAL since August of 2012. With 1 of every 10 adults in Monroe County in need of help with literacy and language skills, her service is of great value. Molly's commitment to VITAL goes above and beyond the scope of a volunteer tutor. She freely offers her passion, intellect, time, and energy to this program and plans imaginative and inspiring real-life activities. Molly‘s generous nature and giving personality have impacted more than just those individuals who received tutoring, her diligent thoughtful efforts have also inspired fellow volunteers.

In partnership with South Central Community Action Program (SCCAP), David White currently is editor, publisher and financial supporter of the Safety-Net free community newspaper. David started Safety-Net in 2005 and continues to be the main organizer. He has called for community action on issues of the environment, civil rights, homelessness, and education. For those who lack resources, David provides what the overburdened system cannot. By his direct service, he has filled many unmet needs of social service agencies and more importantly given non-judgmental support to folks experiencing hard times. David White is a tremendous asset to people in need, to nonprofit organizations, and government agencies in Bloomington. David is also a VITAL tutor.

David and Molly are exemplary examples of the dedicated volunteers at VITAL, who by improving the lives of individuals one-by-one, improve our community at large.

Staff Picks: Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones

Reviewed by Cidne B.

Told in a series of letters, this is the story of twelve year old Sophie Brown’s adventures after she and her family move from L.A. to the rundown farm they inherit from her great-uncle Jim. It begins with the sighting of an unusual chicken and leads to the discovery that there was once an entire coop full of remarkably different breeds.

This wonderful novel tackles issues of family, belonging, community, and change. The difficulties of adjusting to a whole new life are made more interesting by Sophie’s efforts to learn how to take care of her remarkable flock and to solve the mystery behind where they came from and where they are hiding.

Witty, engaging, and utterly delightful, with charming illustrations by Katie Kath, this warm-hearted story would make an excellent read aloud for younger children as well as appeal to independent readers.

Staff Picks: What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? by Chris Barton

Reviewed by Alejandria G. 

It’s impossible not to feel inspired while reading this gorgeous, well-written nonfiction picture book about the life of Texas congresswoman Barbara Jordan.

From a young age, Barbara Jordan had a remarkable voice. Her voice demanded attention and projected confidence beyond her years. As the author ponders, “What do you do with a voice like that?”. And so began the journey of Barbara Jordan from child to college student. From lawyer to Congresswoman. Jordan spent her career speaking up for those who had less power and protected the rights of those who were discriminated against. Chris Barton’s wonderful words remind us to honor Jordan’s legacy by making our own voices heard.

Ekua Holmes honors Barbara’s life with gorgeous mixed media illustrations. Bold colors and patterns fill the pages and add dimension to the story.

Short but sweet, this nonfiction picture book is a wonderful read for those interested in the true stories of strong women or the Civil Rights Movement. And the vibrant art will please those with an aesthetic eye.

Staff Picks: The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold

Reviewed by Ginny H. 

A.F. Harrold's novel follows Rudger, an imaginary friend. Amanda, Rudger's real person friend, helps him run away from an evil man who hunts "imaginaries".

But when Amanda is injured, Rudger is left all alone, which is bad news.The longer that Rudger has no one to believe in him, the more he fades. Can Rudger evade the evil hunter and find Amanda before he fades completely?

The Imaginary is a great book for kids interested in whimsical, imaginative fantasy stories

Pioneer Grant to Reduce Library Barriers for Domestic Violence Survivors

Shannon Bowman-Sarkisian

After years of working in west coast bookstores and developing a specialty in rare books, Shannon
Bowman-Sarkisian is now studying to be a librarian at Indiana University and working as an Information
Assistant at the Library. Searching for meaningful opportunities to work on behalf of our community,
Shannon applied for and received the 2019 Pioneer Grant.

The Pioneer Grant invites Library employees to submit their enterprising ideas and lead the way to a
knowledgeable, inclusive, and engaged community empowered by the Library. Projects must be
innovative and beneficial to the community. The Friends of the Library provide funds to make the grant
project possible.

Shannon recently engaged with a patron who couldn’t provide proof of permanent residence in Monroe
County, one of the few requirements to be a Library cardholder. Shannon learned that the patron was
displaced from her residence as a result of domestic violence. However, the patron needed to access
Library services. Shannon wondered if this was a common problem in our community.

Shannon reached out to Middle Way House to learn more. Sure enough, she was told that displaced
survivors often encounter difficulties accessing services due to the lack of a permanent address.
Shannon began forming her grant project––Creating Access for Violence Survivors (CAVS).

"The grant application came out about the same time I had the interaction with this patron and I wanted
to know what could be done to help," Shannon said. "There’s a gap in the accessibility of our services, so
how do we reduce that?"

Shannon’s project has five goals:

  1. To create Library protocol for Monroe County residents who are in hiding or in transitional housing due to escaping domestic violence.
  2. To train Library service staff on domestic violence and related issues.
  3. To reduce Library access barriers for domestic violence survivors.
  4. To enable Middle Way House residents to access eLibrary and digital learning tools by providing curated iPads and LeapPad tablets.
  5. To provide outreach and information about Library services to residents at The Rise and others who use Middle Way House services.

"Applying for the project grant was very intimidating for me because I'm an information assistant and am relatively new to the library," Shannon said. "Getting this grant and studying to be a Librarian feels like I'm on the right path. It's really important to me, and I think, to my community."

In keeping with the Library’s mission of equitable access and inclusion, Shannon’s project has identified and aims to answer a real need in our community.

"Survivors will benefit greatly from Shannon’s presence and compassion," said Marilyn Wood, Library
Director. "We appreciate her thoughtfulness and extensive research in developing this project."

Staff Picks: Blended by Sharon M. Draper

Reviewed by Christina J. 

Sharon Draper does it again - this time offering a heartfelt and moving story about a young bi-racial girl struggling to find her place within her complicated family and in the larger community. Draper’s characters are so complex and sympathetic that they seem like old friends by the end of the book. Fans of Draper’s other work, namely Out of My Mind and Stella by Starlight, will not be disappointed!

Isabella lives life by halves, splitting her time between the homes of her divorced Black father and white mother. While her parents argue bitterly, they shower Isabella with real love. Life at school is not much easier when her best friend, a Black girl from a politically engaged family, is shaken by a hateful object left in her locker. The incident sends a shockwave through the school and community, and forces Isabella to ask important questions about her identity. Throughout her trials, Isabella finds peace and inspiration in her piano playing. Isabella’s journey is filled with love and heartache, hate and hope, division and unity and lots and lots of surprises.


Staff Picks: Step Right Up by Donna Janell Bowman

Reviewed by Christina J. 

You have to read it to believe it. Then you have to see the photos in the historical note at the back of the book to really believe the incredible story of William ‘Doc’ Key and his intelligent horse Beautiful Jim Key. Even people who witnessed it firsthand, including scholars from Harvard University, couldn’t understand how Doc Key managed to teach his horse how to read, spell, cipher, and more on command. This is a stunning and inspiring story of how kindness and love has the potential to unleash the intelligence and capacity in animals, during a time when most people believed animals had no feelings.

William ‘Doc’ Key lived an extraordinary life in rural Tennessee during the time of the Civil War. Born into slavery, Key learned healing arts from his mother and became known in the area as a highly talented animal doctor, earning him the nickname, ‘Doc.’ After an eventful tour in the Civil War, Doc built a thriving business as a newly free man. That’s when he nursed a sickly colt to life and made him a household name. Doc Key used his fame and influence to shine a light on racial inequity by refusing to have segregated seating at his shows and performing in traditionally white venues. Along with his stance on social justice, Doc also crusaded for the humane treatment of animals. Truly, Doc Key’s story is an inspiration to us all.

*This book was an honoree for the Carter G. Woodson Book Awards for the most distinguished books appropriate for young readers that depict ethnicity in the United States. Adjudicated by members of the National Council for the Social Studies (a professional teaching organization) this award is intended to “encourage the writing, publishing, and dissemination of outstanding social studies books for young readers that treat topics related to ethnic minorities and race relations sensitively and accurately.”

Staff Picks: The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Reviewed by Lizzie F. 

Callum Hunt has spent his entire life avoiding magic, but his attempts to flunk the entrance exam for the Magisterium are unsuccessful, and he finds himself an apprentice at the underground magic school where young mages are trained. Despite his initial reluctance, he begins to enjoy learning to use magic, but nothing can prepare him for what he is about to learn about himself and his past.

This book is great for fans of Harry Potter and the twist ending will leave you excited for the Magisterium series' second installment.

Staff Picks: The Honest Truth

Reviewed by Ginny H. 

Mark has been sick for a long time and after receiving bad news from the doctors, he's had enough. He's angry, scared, and just wants to disappear. So he does.

Mark sets out with his dog, Beau, to climb Mount Rainier. He encounters all kinds of people and obstacles along the way, all the while documenting his travels with his camera and writing haikus. While he misses his mom and dad and his best friend, Jess, he keeps going, even when he starts getting sicker.

This book was a really intense adventure novel. I found myself relating to the character in huge ways. The bond between Mark and his dog, Beau, was so relatable and real. When they got into some of the more dramatic parts, I was literally holding my breath!

If you like adventure and action, you'll love this book by Dan Gemeinhart.

Staff Picks: Dactyl Hill Squad

Reviewed by Ellen A. 

Welcome to 1863 New York City, where dinosaurs roam the streets! Magdalys Roca and her fellow orphan friends are enjoying a field trip in the city when riots break out and a few of their group are kidnapped. It's up to Magdalys and the Dactyl Hill Squad to rescue their missing friends and defeat the evil magistrate, Riker. 

This alternate history involving the U.S. Civil War, a diverse bunch of heroic orphans, and dinosaurs is quite a thrilling ride. The exciting adventure, written by Daniel José Older, also touches on deeper issues such as extreme racial injustice and fighting for what is right.

I'm looking forward to the second book in the series, Freedom Fire, to be released in May 2019.