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YOUNGSTOWN – Today launches National Library Week, and volunteers from the Friends of the Youngstown Free Library are busy with plans to increase their membership as well as raise funds to support their cause.

The Friends is a nonprofit group of volunteers that helps financially support a wide variety of services that the library provides for free for the community. The group has helped fund everything from early literacy programs to periodical subscriptions – and it is always looking for new members.

The organization is raffling off 10 $20 gift certificates from area businesses for any individual or family who joins by May 1.

The organization also will host its fifth annual “Dessert and Wine in the Stacks” fundraiser from 6 to 8 p.m. April 25 at the library, 240 Lockport St., an event suitable for children, as well as adults. Children will be treated to punch and kid-friendly treats. The dessert and appetizer samplings will originate from recipes found in the library’s collection, baked by trustees, staff and friends.

Dessert and appetizer tickets will be $8 for 10 tickets in advance and $10 for 10 tickets at the door. Each dessert and appetizer sample will go for one ticket.

According to Charlotte Viscio Clark, president of the Friends’ board of directors, the group oversees the annual printing, labeling and mailing of 14,000 letters to community households, which raised more than $15,500 for the library just last year.

To date, the Friends group has funded:

• An early literacy initiative called “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten.”

• A $250 contribution to the Ruby Carey Memorial Scholarship.

• Visits by the Lewiston-Porter kindergarten students each spring.

• A new exterior drop-off box and book truck.

• Children and adult summer reading programs.

• And the purchase of a LeapFrog reading device for children.

It also makes an Old Fort Niagara family memberships available for patrons who want to borrow the pass for a day; supplies subscriptions to the Book Page; has recorded books, audio books and the New York Times Sunday edition; has purchased an updated large-print collection; and supports the “Young Authors” program held each year at Lew-Port.

Clark said, “Our Friends group is made up of enthusiastic and community-minded people from Youngstown and the Town of Porter. When we become members, we primarily show our support for the resources that the library provides to the community. Secondly, we give a small donation that allows the Friends to fundraise throughout the year.”

The Friends organization has about 250 members and is run by a volunteer board of directors. It meets at 7 p.m. every third Wednesday of the month in the library.

But Clark noted that membership has declined slightly over the past several years.

“We feel it’s important to work toward increasing our numbers, because having a library in Youngstown is so valuable,” Clark said. “We believe we live in an area where people recognize this, and we hope they will respond with gusto.”

The membership’s campaign slogan is “Make a BFF – Become a Friend of the Youngstown Free Library.” BFF is short for best friend forever.

Membership is $5 per person, $10 per family and $25 for “supporting” members. Forms are available at the library, 240 Lockport St., or at www.youngstownfreelibrary.org

In order to be considered for the raffle, new members must register by 7 p.m. May 1. Ten winners will be drawn at 7 that evening during the Members’ Night gathering, which will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Spring Book Sale in the Village Center gym, 240 Lockport St. Members need not be present to win.

The annual book sale continues for the public from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. May 2 and from 9:30 to 3:30 p.m. May 3. In addition, a bag sale will be offered at 1:30 p.m. May 3.

For more information, visit the library’s website or call 745-3555.