As Tammy Crawford approached retirement after a 30-year career as a teacher in Enterprise School District, she began praying about what her service to her community would be.
“I had decided I would visit people,” she said.
She wasn’t sure what that would look like.
Then one day in church she heard Deliver-me-a-Book volunteer Pat Wade trying to convince someone to take over the book route since Wade was moving.
“It was like a voice came out and said ‘excuse me, wasn’t that exactly what you said you were willing to do?’ I felt called to do it,” Crawford said. “I enjoy older people, I’ve always enjoyed older people, and I knew it would be a good fit for me.”
She’s been delivering books, videos and audio books throughout Wallowa County for nearly two years.
“Now, I’m busy visiting new friends,” she said. “The people I bring books to really do appreciate it, and it adds to their lives; their faces really light up when I come. They say they’ve been waiting all day because they knew it was library day.”
Crawford visits the Wallowa Valley Senior Living Center in Enterprise, Alpine House in Joseph and River House in Wallowa, and then she visits folks in their homes from the turn-off toward Flora to the South end of Joseph.
She has to discipline herself to limit her visits to 15 minutes in order to deliver all the books she selects within a day and a half.
“I can get to talking and be there for 45 minutes,” Crawford said. “I’m having a good time, visiting with my people.”
Books she delivers are both selected by the patrons and by Crawford, who keeps an eye out for books that seem to fit into her patron’s interests.
“We get to know them, and County Library Director Susan Polumsky helps me keep an eye out for books they will like,” she said.
Even patrons with Alzheimer’s enjoy library day. Crawford sometimes chooses large coffee table books for those who may not read anymore along with videos and audio books.
The Deliver-me-a-Book program is not just about reading, Crawford said.
“Some people have few visitors. When you no longer drive and don’t get out, you get isolated,” she said. “The books are a vehicle to enrich lives both through reading and socializing. Because a person is older you can forget what a vital and interesting person they were throughout their life. We get a personal connection to patrons and they know there is someone who cares about them and will come to visit.”
A vibrant and fascinating patron who uses the service is Jeanette Breitmayer, 95, who lives at Wallowa Valley Senior Living.
As soon as you step in the door of Breitmayer’s room, you know you are in the company of a lively mind. She has two bookshelves full of her favorite books — whittled down from a collection of more than 1,000, most of which she donated to the Forest Grove library.
“I’ve read everything — every kind of book,” she said. “I’ve been reading since I was four years old. My first book was ‘Bunny Brown and His Sister Sue.’ I was thrilled to death because it was my first honest to goodness book — not a baby’s book.”
She reads not only books delivered by Crawford but books given to her by her son and other family members for birthdays and Christmas.
“They know that they can’t go wrong with a book,” Breitmayer said.
Right now, she’s reading “7003 Days: 21 Years in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness” by Jim Akenson.
She recently finished “Damn, I Shot My Horse” by Fred Hauptmann. That book is making the rounds at Wallowa Valley Senior Living as many of Breitmayer’s books do. Her copy of “Follow the River” by James Alexander Thom holds the record for the number of times it’s been loaned out.
She values the Deliver Me A Book service.
“It’s extremely important,” she said. “There are some people who have no source for books. I’m lucky I have my family to provide me with books, too. I just can’t imagine how difficult it is for people with no source of books. It’s necessary.”
Breitmayer is aware the county library may be closing and it makes her anxious, she said.
“It would be impossible for me to live without books,” she said. “This is why I’m anxious about all this fussing to close the county library — it’s so useful to so many people.”
She recalls that before she moved to Wallowa Valley Senior Living, she visited the Joseph Library regularly.
“I would go to that little library and there were all kinds of people — little kids getting different kinds of things, parents looking up things — it was so obvious how important libraries are.”