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Sharing the Magic of Books

Lisa Rassenti


Jimmie Felder grew up with a rich supply of stories. She was one of seven children, the daughter of a substitute teacher and a blacksmith. “At night,” she recalls, “we used to pull the mattress off a bed and sit on it and one of us would tell a story that they had read in school. That way, we all got to hear six stories every week that we had not read.”

She also read anything she could get her hands on and was promoted from the second grade after just two weeks because she could already read all the second grade books.

That was in the days before school desegregation came to her home town of Hayneville in rural Lowndes County, Alabama. There was a White school four blocks away, but she and her siblings walked a mile to the Black school, and had to stay home whenever heavy rains flooded a bridge on the way. For high school, she had to move in with relatives in Montgomery, some 25 miles away.

Felder went on to college and became an English teacher and high school librarian in Montgomery. When she retired in 1990, she persuaded the Lowndes County commissioners to commit the resources needed for a public library.

Today, Felder is still guiding the development of the library, where children enjoy and learn from stories like those she read and heard growing up. The library boasts 22,000 volumes. Felder earns a small salary as director, “but I put it all back buying books. If a college student comes in and needs a book we don’t have, I just call a bookstore and buy it.”

Ironically, the library is across the street from the formerly all-White school, now predominantly African-American, that she couldn’t attend as a child.


people2.jpgBuilding Habitats for Young Learners

When Marcella and Rick Pasetto retired from teaching in 2003, at ages 55 and 57 respectively, they hit the road in their RV with plans to travel America. But they soon discovered they simply weren’t done helping people, even after 37 combined years of teaching in New York and New Jersey.

So the Pasettos joined Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit housing ministry that uses volunteers to build simple homes for the needy. In 2004, the Pasettos began using their RV to travel to Habitat construction sites, where they stay for about two weeks and help build homes.

“My favorite part has been meeting the families who will live in the homes we help to create,” says Marcella. “The last home we worked on was going to be for a single father and his four young kids. It was wonderful to see how excited and grateful they were.” Over the past two years, the Pasettos have worked on building five homes in Georgia, Maryland, and Texas.

Even though they have retired from education, the Pasettos feel their commitment to Habitat is a very practical extension of teaching. “It’s another way to help children get an education, because a good home provides them with a better neighborhood and study environment,” Marcella explains.

Get involved in Habitat for Humanity.



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