We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time
McIver's Grant Public Library received a gift this week toward the capital campaign for its new building. It is a gift that brings the fund full circle as construction begins to transform the old Piggly Wiggly building in downtown Dyersburg into a new, state-of-the-art and ADA-compliant public library.
Kay Crews and Carol Harris of Clark's Distributing presented a check in honor of their mother, Sarah Alice Atkins Clark, to Library Board Chairman Doug Haynes on Wednesday, Jan. 11.
The $25,000 donation - a healthy boost to the library's campaign - also provided the trio a chance to discuss Clark's footprint on the new library building and the Dyersburg community.
As she neared the end of her life, Sarah Clark was undecided on whether she would make a philanthropic contribution to the community. She first wished to ensure that her family was taken care of.
As her health declined, Clark became bedfast. An avid reader, she kept her daughters running to purchase and borrow enough books to keep her busy mind occupied. Each evening, Harris and Crews sat with their mother. About that same time, Harris joined the McIver's Grant Library Board and discussion often turned to the need for a new library building.
"(Mother) started talking about doing something meaningful," said Harris, who said the three women discussed several options for helping the library attain a new building in their evenings together. "One evening, Kay said 'Why don't we just do it?' and we started the next day. Kay and I got it taken care of for her."
Before they lost their mother on Oct. 14, 2007, Clark's daughters set up a foundation with the intent that the funds would go to the library when the project for a new building began.
The girls were true to their mother's vision.
As Harris began writing the initial USDA grant and loan application for the library's new location across from City Hall, she learned that three sizable donations were required to show community support for the proposed project.
"I think Mother's money was the first money in the fund," said Harris. "And we were able to lure the second donor into matching us. We knew the Donners would make a sizable contribution, so those were our three lead gifts."
Clark's initial contribution to the library's new building was $105,000.
Not long after the campaign began, Harris said former Gov. Ned McWherter and his son gave an additional $10,000 in honor of Clark and her late husband, Warren Clark.
When Harris and Crews chose to honor their mother with an additional donation to the building fund, they chose to include Clark's longtime physician and family friend, Dr. Doug Haynes. Haynes, himself, is a longtime member of the Library Board.
"Doug was her doctor since he came to Dyersburg," said Harris. "He was with us, he held our hands (through her illness)."
"(He is) a good, good friend," said Crews.
"This is a real personal occasion for us," said Harris. "We wanted to put the check in his hands."
"It was a real honor," said Haynes. "Mrs. Clark was a patient of mine since 1970. She was a very private person. No one would guess her depth unless they knew her real well. She was a big reader. She was gentle. Sometimes, doctors have patients that are difficult to deal with; never Mrs. Clark. She was first class in my book."
Haynes said he is pleased Clark's foresight provided the library with a financial boost just when it was most needed.
"I never would have guessed that Mrs. Clark would be (able to help us) at (that) critical point," said Haynes. "We were able to say 'We are on the march. We are going to make something happen.' Since then, we have had some extremely large donations to be made."
Haynes, Harris and Crews agreed funds needed for the new building will not stop once the building is complete.
"We are not talking about just building a building and getting it on its feet," said Harris.
"This is a little notice to the public that we are in the process of keeping our library vital," said Haynes.
Harris and Crews credit both their parents for providing them with a solid business and the means to aid the library.
"Our parents worked really hard and started with nothing," said Harris. "My dad died in 1990 and this business really flourished under Mother's leadership. That is what enabled Kay and I to make our gift."
"This is this family's legacy for this library and this community," said Haynes.
"The library will be for everybody," said Harris. "It will be a wonderful place for senior citizens. Mother probably would have enjoyed that library if she had lived and was mobile. She was unable to negotiate the present library's steps long before (we lost her)."
"This is her footprint," continued Harris. "This is the footprint she leaves in Dyersburg. Besides her family, this (new library building) is what she left our community."