Foundation Stories

written by Steph Neu, Event Coordinator of the Johnson County Library Foundation

Fantabulistic is the word Foundation board member and Library Lets Loose DJ Stann Tate uses to describe our annual signature event. Now in its 9th year, Library Lets Loose is our one-night-only opportunity to “let loose” for an evening at the Johnson County Library. This includes enjoying local food and cocktails, interactive experiences, raffle drawings, and music and dancing.

Tray of colorful macarons at Library Lets Loose

This year takes on a new theme to weave through the night: Library Lets Loose – Top Secret: A Night of Espionage. What do spies need? Information of course. No better place to access information than a party at the Library. Just know you may need to take on a new identity, ask a lot of questions, and learn the secrets to access important information. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, will result in fun and rewards.

When asked what he’s looking forward to this year, Stann replied “I’m looking forward to seeing newbies who never thought a library party could be so hip, cool, and fun! I’m also looking forward to seeing what people wear for the spy-themed event.”

Tate added, “This event is important because it opens eyes to many of resources that our amazing libraries offer to the community. Our libraries are more than books, they are a foundational part of our community where people can meet, build, create, and dream through our diverse resources.”

Other event committee members expressed similar excitement. Words used to describe Library Lets Loose included: essential, community, celebration, and generosity. As this event is the largest fundraiser for the Library Foundation each year, every dollar donated makes a difference.

This event is the perfect opportunity for date night, book clubs, girls’ night out, or a solo guest to see the library in a new light. Library Lets Loose is a chance for people who love the library to come together and show their support for this valuable Johnson County agency.

Smiling attendees at Library Lets Loose

Funds raised enhance the Library’s programs, services, and lifelong learning resources. Honorary Hosts Anne and Bill Blessing shared their excitement for this year’s event using the word FUNraiser. The Blessings added their enthusiasm for supporting digital resources this year, like Libby and Brainfuse.

Ebooks and EAudiobooks are accessed on Libby like never before. In 2019, Johnson County Library cardholders downloaded over 956,000 digital materials. Last year, it was over 1,804,000. This year we are on pace to hit over 2,000,000.

Don’t miss it! Join us on Saturday, September 21, 6:30-10 pm at the Central Resource Library. What will your word be to describe this year’s event?

written by Shelley O’Brien, Executive Director of the Johnson County Library Foundation

The Johnson County Library Foundation makes a donation every year to the Johnson County Library. We like to call this the “Big Check” gift. This year the Foundation is able to donate $125,536. This will go to the purchasing of physical books for all of Johnson County Library’s 14 branch libraries.

The Foundation was founded in 1996 with the idea that we would support programming, the library collection, and build an endowment. We are very lucky that leaders from the 90s thought about the future.

In practical terms, what does this donation mean?

Good question, reader – it means about 5,000 books are being added to the collection, thanks to the Library Foundation. These materials will be a mix of children, teen and adult books, DVDs, CDs, and other printed material.

Great! Where did the money come from?

From the Johnson County Library Foundation’s endowment funds which are held at the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. Over the past 20 years, donors have been giving to the Foundation and money has been saved. Some have been $20 donations all the way to planned gifts from a donor’s estate after they pass away. All the money together results in over $4 million in our accounts. For example, this year one person’s estate donated over $80,000 to the Library Foundation endowment. Truly a gift that will last forever.

What is an endowment?

An endowment is like a savings account where we don’t touch the principle or the invested dollars. Therefore, if you make a donation to the endowment, it stays there forever. We spend a portion of the profits.

Each year 3.75% of the endowment balance from the previous year is donated to the Library. Our endowments are invested in a wide variety of funds to decrease risk. Any additional funds made over the 3.75% are reinvested into the principle. It is a strategy that many non-profits and universities use to invest and spend their funds.  

Why don’t you spend all of the returns on investment?

Wow reader, you really do ask great questions. We like to stay with a consistent, fairly fiscally conservative average. If you are investing in pooled funds, you typically make 5% or a little more on average. There are good years and bad years. I’m old enough to remember the 90s dotcom bubble where my mutual funds were making 19% some quarters. And then the bubble burst where I lost money. It’s better to have a low average and save.

Who are the people in the photo?

Members of the Foundation Board and Library Board. From left to right: David Sims, Anne Blessing, Anna van Ophem, Kelly Kilgore, Mike Sherry, Bethenny Griffin, Tricia Suellentrop, Mitra Templin, Chuck Sipple, Commissioner Shirley Allenbrand, and Jeffrey Mendoza.

For any questions on the Foundation or the Foundation’s endowment, please drop me an email at [email protected]. Giving a gift to the endowment is a great way to invest in our library and our community.

    Meet Your Favorite Teacher: Matt Eicheldinger April 2024 Library Event

    written by Shelley O’Brien, Executive Director of the Johnson County Library Foundation

    One of the fun things about being a donor to the Johnson County Library Foundation is that we invite you to special events. On April 17, 2024, we hosted a private reception with author and middle school language arts teacher Matt Eicheldinger. According to Matt, you pronounce his last name “Eye-Coal-Ding-Rrrr”.

    Easy, right?

    Matt Eicheldinger, speaker, Phyllis and Erwin Abrams, donors and board member, Ben Sunds, Associate Director for the library

    Matt has multiple books coming out in 2024 and 2025 with Kansas City’s own Andrews McMeel Universal. This includes, “Matt Sprouts and the Curse of the Ten Broken Toes” for elementary school-aged students. Additionally, coming out in the fall will be “Sticky Notes: Memorable Lessons from Ordinary Moments” with stories about grief, joy, and compassion.

    Johnson County Library Foundation former board member Caroline McKnight has called Matt the “Modern Mr. Rogers” in his approach to writing and posting videos on his Instagram (you can follow him at @matteicheldinger). His positive outlook on children, our times, and personal challenges, reframes his approach to teaching, and inspires others. Not to mention, most of his stories are funny and charming – focusing on family, learning, and resiliency.

    Maybe more importantly, via storytelling, he connects with the audience. During his speech there was a lot of laughter, and a lot of “awwws” from the audience.

    Matt shared a “Sticky Notes” story with us. He was teaching an elementary school class with a student who had gone quiet. She had spoken in the past but had recently stopped speaking. Matt asked the other teachers for help, but they didn’t know what to do. He came up with the idea of leaving a sticky note on her desk before she arrived at school each day. Sometimes it was a drawing, or a memorable phrase, but something to connect with this one student. Years later she returned to Matt’s class to thank him, and she had saved all his encouraging sticky notes.

    Matt’s books and a thank you to sponsors Andrews McMeel Universal

    Eicheldinger’s career trajectory includes years of teaching elementary school, years of literary agent rejection letters, Instagram success with sharing stories via video, and now writing and hoping for literary success. Many in the audience were impressed with his tenacity and hustle.

    We thank Matt for sharing his special knack for storytelling with us. It was a wonderful evening. In addition, we thanked our newest members of the 1952 Society. A BIG thank you to Mel and Alice Hawk, Chris and Bonnie Limbird, and Leigh Anne and Bill Neal, who have all placed the library in their estate plans.

    For more information about donating now or in the future through your estate or will, give me a call at (202) 923-6458 (cell) or [email protected] via email. I’m happy to meet you for coffee and give you a copy of Matt’s book.

    1. Alonzo Fuller with Andrews McMeel Universal, Kelly Kilgore, Johnson County Library Board Chair, and Shelley R. O’Brien, Executive Director for the Johnson County Library Foundation
    2. Guest Chalen David and foundation board member Anne Blessing
    3. Christi and Ken Eaton
    4. Chuck Sipple, foundation board member, Julie Steiner, foundation president, and Tricia Suellentrop, County Librarian
    5. Guests Ian Donahoe and Jason Webb
    6. Deputy County Librarian Kinsley Riggs and former foundation board member Caroline McKnight watching speaker Matt Eicheldinger
    7. Guest Mel Haas and foundation past president Leigh Anne Neal
    8. Guest Shannon Skoglund and Lisa Larson-Bunnell, Johnson County Library Foundation Board Member

    Your investment in Johnson County Library generates a 300% return.