Gabriela Duenas reached into her pocket last April at a school board meeting and pulled out $40. The Galt seventh-grader had just heard that all six school libraries were to be closed because of a lack of funds. She wanted to help.
The heartfelt action of a 12-year-old started a community swell of support that will result in the reopening of all six Galt Joint Union Elementary School District libraries on Wednesday.
Volunteers have sold cookies, held a spaghetti feed and donated household items for a giant rummage sale to help raise the money needed to reopen the school libraries.
Gabriela and her parents the owners of El Rodeo, a Mexican restaurant in Galt sold tacos at the rummage sale and donated all the proceeds.
Businesses and local community organizations pitched in as well. The senior center donated its Monday bingo card proceeds and started a nickel jar to help out. The Marengo Ranch Elementary School PTA donated $10,000 it had been planning to use for computers.
"This has really captured the hearts of the people here in our community," said Leesa Klotz, chairwoman of the community committee raising money for the libraries.
The town's residents have raised more than $27,000 so far enough to keep the libraries open until the Christmas break, said Superintendent Karen Schauer.
The libraries were closed after the school board voted at that meeting in April to lay off four library technicians to help address a $4 million budget shortfall in the district.
"It was unthinkable," Klotz said of the action. The community committee was quickly formed.
Duenas said she was "really sad" when she heard board members announce the libraries would be closing. "So, I just thought of giving money, because that is what schools need money."
Fundraising including an upcoming run/walk Oct. 20 will continue, as the district needs another $50,000 to keep the libraries open through the school year.
"I see this as an ongoing project," Klotz said, "until the district can take this over. We are in it for the long haul."
In the meantime, Duenas, now 13, continues to stump for the libraries. She said they offer books, computers and Internet access to students who may not have these resources at home.
"For me, not having a library is like not having an education," she said.
The school district, which educates 3,972 students at five elementary schools and one middle school, will celebrate the reopening of its libraries at a ceremony at 8:10 a.m. Wednesday at Marengo Ranch Elementary, 1000 Elk Hills Drive in Galt.
For more information about the run/walk and other fundraising efforts, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the Save Galt Elementary Libraries page on Facebook.