by Dennis Dalman
Because Randy and Nancy Schmitz and their children love to read, they leaped at the chance to host an Imagination Library dinner.
The Schmitzes, who live in rural St. Joseph, own and operate the Rolling Ridge Wedding and Events Center in St. Joseph.
At their home, they will host a main-course dinner. It will be a surprise dinner for 14 diners based on the theme “From Farm to Fork.”
“It’s our first time doing this,” Randy said. “I’m a little nervous, but we love to entertain so it will be a lot of fun.”
Randy’s nervousness is only a slight case because he has so much confidence in the chef who will prepare the dinner – Kayla Strom of Custom Catering by Short Stop, the company that caters so many dinners for the Schmitzes’ wedding and events center.
The couple has three children – Lily, 11; Sylvie, 8; and Wylie, 6. All three children enjoyed receiving Imagination Library books when they were under the age of 5. And they still love to read.
“Now, the girls are reading chapter books,” Randy noted.
The Schmitzes are one of many homeowners who will host dinners for the annual Imagination Library Progressive Dinner.
Sponsored by United Way of Central Minnesota, the dinners (two separate events) will take place on two days, April 14 and April 21. The annual event raises funds for Imagination Library so more children can receive books in the mail, free, every month. The program is so popular there is a waiting list until more funds become available.
Participants in the Imagination Library Progressive Dinner start the evening at one of three reception homes – in Sartell, St. Cloud and – new on the rounds this year – St. Joseph. At the reception homes, after a social hour, participants will receive envelopes containing information on which homes they will go to for their next dinner stops – for first course and then main course.
The United Way of Central Minnesota began funding the local area’s Imagination Library 12 years ago, and 1.3 million books were received by children during that time.
Books are age-appropriate. The first one a child receives is The Little Engine That Could, and the last, just before turning age 6, is Kindergarten, Here I Come!
Lori Eich of Sauk Rapids is the director of individual giving for the United Way. This year’s Imagination Library goal, she noted, is to raise $50,000. In the past 12 years, $190,000 was raised, which helped pay for books sent via Dolly Parton’s Dollywood Foundation.
Eich’s own children – Coltin, now 12, and Carleigh, 10 – were also recipients of Imagination Library books. She can remember vividly how excited her children became when the books would arrive in the mail and how much fun the family had reading them together.
“There are about 120 more children each year on the program,” Eich said. “There is a waiting list now. As children go beyond the age of 5, new ones are always being added.”
This year’s progressive dinner will involve 135 volunteers and close to an estimated 300 diners.
To find out more about the event, call Lori Eich at 320-229-3501 or 320-761-2571. Contributions to the program can be sent to United Way of Central Minnesota Imagination Library Fund, 921 First St. N., Suite 200, St. Cloud, Minn. 56303.