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Philly elementary school library to receive Phanatic facelift

Junior Chelsea Holden is admittedly addicted to watching design shows where people completely remodel old spaces.

This weekend, she will be in charge of her own extreme makeover as she leads a team of volunteers in cleaning and modernizing the John Welsh Elementary library in Philadelphia with a Phillies-inspired theme.

Holden, an elementary major, found John Welsh during her search for a student-teaching opportunity in the city. When the principal showed her the state of the current library, Holden knew she had to do something to help.

“I saw this school and my heart just broke because it’s in such a poor area,” Holden said.

Currently, the library is nothing more than an old classroom stuffed with books. Since there has not been enough money in the school’s budget for a librarian, the library has been closed to students for nine years. The paint on the walls is chipping and bookshelves are mismatched, but a bigger issue for the library is its contents.

“The problem with this library is that even if it was open it would be absolutely useless because the books are so outdated,” Holden said.

After seeing the tremendous need at John Welsh, Holden started planning a renovation project. She has already helped to remove more than half of the library’s books, some dating back to the 1800s, and has obtained numerous donations from businesses and churches to help remodel the space, including a partnership with the Philadelphia Phillies’ “Be a Phantic about reading” program.

“We live in one of the richest areas of the world and twenty minutes away from us is such poverty and we just don’t take the time to go see it and experience it ourselves,” Holden said. “When I drove in the first time, it was such a humbling experience because where I grew up was so different.”

Holden organized a two-day service project for this weekend from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on May 2 and 3. Vans will be leaving the gym parking lot at 8:30 a.m.

Holden said that anyone is welcome to come and help with the painting, carpeting and remodeling this weekend. Staying true to the Phillies theme, Holden said the library will be decked out in red and blue with Phillies carpet. If students would like to be involved but cannot attend the work project, they can submit books to help restock the library.

“Eastern has such a justice-oriented mission and in education sometimes we forget that just because we don’t see it,” Holden said. “There’s so much to do … but anything you do is better than before. Even if you don’t fix everything and change everything, you’re still serving and trying and that’s what matters.”

Anyone who would like to volunteer with this project should contact Chelsea Holden at cholden@eastern.edu.

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