BRISTOL — Most couples hope for money, gift certificates or household items for their wedding gifts.
But not Will and Sarah Weed.
When the newlyweds learned about the Elkhart Education Foundation’s ongoing Living Libraries project, an initiative that seeks to renovate all 14 of Elkhart Community Schools’ elementary libraries, they knew they wanted to help.
To that end, the couple requested that their guests give charitable donations instead of wedding gifts to help the foundation with transforming its seventh elementary library.
“Sarah and I both realized that gift-wise, we really didn’t need anything and wanted to show who we are, which is important for us to be involved in the community charitably and philanthropically, so I said let’s just give it to charity,” said Will Weed.
Their efforts paid off.
Altogether, they raised $20,000, all of which went toward the renovations for the Bristol Elementary Library, allowing for a more open, technology-friendly learning commons for students and teachers.
“Our concept was if somebody’s willing to give $20 as a wedding gift, would they be willing to give $60 as a charitable gift, and we feel people really got behind us on that and we were proud that we ended up generating a good amount of money," Will said.
After two months of renovation, Bristol Elementary unveiled its updated library space during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday afternoon.
The library was designed in a pirate theme, mirroring the school’s mascot. Dozens of school staff, parents and students explored the newly renovated space, seemingly impressed with the updates.
The Weeds both said they were blown away by the library’s makeover.
“It’s absolutely beautiful,” said Sarah Weed. “All the details and murals and the pirate ship and treasure map, they did a really good job of keeping the Bristol pirate heritage.”
Like all the other libraries renovated by the Elkhart Education Foundation, Bristol’s new library features STEM learning centers, coding robots and Lego stations – much more than the stereotypical library full of books, said EEF Executive Director Ashley Molyneaux.
“We want (libraries) to be the places that kids can start to explore their futures, a place that is the epicenter of innovation for teaching,” Molyneaux said.
Bristol Elementary Principal Jill Balcom said she was thankful to the Weeds for their generous donation, which she said is going to help the staff accomplish their mission in providing the students with a more hands-on approach to learning.
“Our students are so excited about this space as well as the teachers and the innovation that’s going to happen with the new collaboration and creative ideas and brainstorming – endless possibilities,” she said. “We never had space where our staff can even meet in one big area, so this allows us to even meet together as a staff for our professional learning community meetings.”