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Houston Mom’s Group Turn Contest Loss Into Win For Local Library

You may not have heard about it, but a few months ago, Houston went head-to-head with a little town in North Carolina called Mount Airy. The prize was $5,000 dollars to go to one local library’s kids programs. Houston didn’t win, but that’s just the beginning of the story.


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When it comes to getting a large number of people to vote online in a contest, odds are a city of 2.1 million will most likely trump a town of about 10,000. However, in a classic example of David versus Goliath, Mount Airy in North Carolina beat Houston Heights Library by over 50,000 votes to win $5,000 dollars.

The money came from a contest run by Lego and the Association for Library Services to Children. As Heights mom Viula Torgerson explains at a story-time event in the library, losing the money sparked something in the local parenting group.

Heights Library inside“A couple of us just said, ‘You know, what, we’ve got all these people in Heights group alone. There’s a thousand families represented. If every family in the group donates $5 dollars, then we can match the Lego prize and do something special for our library within the own community.’”

The group Torgerson is referring to is known as the Heights Kids Group. It’s an online forum where parents who live in the Heights area sign up to meet other parents, arrange play dates, ask parenting questions and in cases like this ask for help.

People donated what they could and not only did we meet the $5,000 goal of the Lego contest, but we exceeded it.”

In fact the total came to over $6,000, but donations are still rolling in.

Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson is the director of the Houston Public Library System. This is the second community donation in her seven year tenure and she’s delighted.

“Six thousand dollars can go a huge way in terms of children’s programming and the resources that can make a child’s experience when they come into the library even richer.”

Miss Sarah readingThe Heights kids already enjoy programs like story time with Miss Sarah, one of the library’s employees. She reads stories to a room full of three to five year-olds. They also make crafts like five year old Jacob describes.

“I’m making a star ornament for my Christmas tree.”

His grandfather Mack is helping him with the arrangement of glue, glitter and lollipop sticks — all things that have to be purchased by local libraries to make crafts like this possible.

Exactly how the money raised will be spent, hasn’t been decided yet. But when the Houston Public Library budgets nearly $16 dollars per person anually, Dr. Lawson says $6,000 dollars for one library will make a difference. Viula Torgerson hopes that as losing spurred the Heights Kids Group on, maybe their fund-raising success will show other neighborhoods they can do it too.

To donate to a Houston library, visit

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