Libraries Write New Chapter With Foundation Grants

A young reader at the Clymer-French Creek Library benefits from new materials purchased with a grant by the Community Foundation. Submitted Photos

David and Margaret Blossom were passionate about education and the role that libraries play in educating a community. Now, more than ever, libraries have proven to be a vital component in creating thriving communities.

“The Blossoms could have never predicted a global pandemic,” said Tory Irgang, Chautauqua Region Community Foundation executive director, “but their vision and generosity are helping local families and rural communities get through some challenging times.”

Since its creation in 1983, the Blossom Fund at the Community Foundation has been the leading source of funding for local libraries. In recent years, this field of interest fund has expanded and updated learning collections, provided matching support for building improvements, and upgraded equipment to better serve patron needs.

“Libraries are not just brick and mortar buildings that lend physical materials to patrons,” Irgang said. “They are community centers that must have current technology and digital resources to assist patrons of all ages and backgrounds.”


David and Margaret Blossom created a field of interest fund at the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation to support local libraries.

Due to the growing and changing needs of its patrons, the Clymer-French Creek Free Library needed to update its collection. There were requests from both children and adults to expand its nonfiction section. In addition to providing books to library visitors, the library was also providing books to a local preschool and needed additional materials for early readers.

“We are circulating a large volume of books, our highest numbers ever,” offered Darlene Redlecki, Clymer-French Creek Library director. “Our nonfiction collection was outdated and it would have taken a long time to update it without help from the Community Foundation.”

At the James Prendergast Library Association there was a need to enhance their audio and large print collections. According to Annie Greene, Prendergast Library director, these items are sought after by those who have difficulty reading regular print books and a growing population that prefers listening to books.

“There has been a 15% increase in downloadable audiobooks that patrons can access without having to step foot into the library,” Greene said.


Although lending materials continue to be central to library missions, the growing need for safe spaces to gather have allowed libraries to evolve into technology hubs and community centers.

With more than half of the region’s libraries located in buildings that are several decades old, finding resources to modernize facilities and comply with accessibility requirements can be a challenge.

The majority of funding for renovation and construction projects come through New York State’s Public Library Construction Grants Program. However, Community Foundation dollars often serve as matching funds, or bridge the gap to address projects that aren’t able to access these dollars.

One of the libraries that received funding from both the Community Foundation and state construction grant process was the Kennedy Free Library, which allowed the library to install an elevator and accessible bathroom on the lower level. This makes the entire facility ADA compliant and increases the usability of the lower level for classes and community activities.

“Our lower level, although a finished space, was not fully accessible,” library officials said. “Now we look forward to holding educational programs, classes and even hosting community events.”

In Busti, a combination of NYS funding and Community Foundation support made it possible for the Hazeltine Library to install a new structure on their property. This will provide additional storage for the library, as well as, allow for community gatherings during the warmer months of the year.

For other libraries, upgrading equipment is just as important. A modest grant from the Community Foundation replaced the all-in-one printer at the Ellington Farman Library, an integral service to the entire community. Utilized by both library staff and patrons, the machine is used to print materials for school assignments, medical appointments, and job applications while small business owners utilize it for print and fax services.


Although David and Margaret have since passed, their passion for education and desire to support local libraries lives on with the Community Foundation. Since it was established, The Blossom Fund has granted $705,540 to many community organizations, including 19 libraries.

“Field of Interest funds offer flexibility within a donor’s area of interest,” Irgang said. “The Blossoms could not have imagined how important their charitable vision would be in this decade,” Irgang said.

The Blossom Fund is one of more than 700 endowments the Community Foundation administers that support emerging community needs, charitable organizations and local students pursuing higher education. At the end of 2021, the Foundation’s asset level was $142.1 million.

To learn more about how you can make a difference with the Community Foundation, visit crcfonline.org or contact their office at 716-661-3390.


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