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Eagle Scout candidate makes books accessible

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A 5-year-old and 6-year-old brother and sister rushed to the new little library at the Thompson Square Affordable Housing Project in Lawrenceville this past Saturday.

Once there, they held up their books in excitement and jumped up and down. They smiled at their mother who was just as excited about the free little library built by Eagle Scout candidate Jacob Ball.

Jacob also built libraries for New Memorial and Rich Martin, which like Thompson Square are Lawrenceville Housing Authority complexes that make up Village of Hope. The local nonprofit assists the homeless and those in need and works with the Lawrenceville Housing Authority to provide families with food.

“The excitement on the kids’ faces when they first saw the books and got one made my day,” Ball said. “It feels good to know it’s because of what I have done and what the Scouting community has done.”

It took Ball, who just finished his freshman year at Archer High School, three months to build the libraries. He built them alongside his father Chris, a former Boy Scout, and he coordinated the project with help from Gwinnett County Public Schools employees Dawn Ansley and Amy Robertson along with Village of Hope President Jan Jones.

The idea came after an impromptu conversation Ball’s mother had with Robertso in the fall. But Jones said she believes it wasn’t until they installed the libraries last Saturday that Jacob truly realized the impact his Eagle Scout Project was going to have on the families living at the complexes.

“I think it knocked him through a loop when he actually saw the impact the little libraries were going to have on kids,” Jones said, adding that an estimated 100 kids live in each of the complexes. “This is going to have a lasting effect on those neighborhoods for a long time to come.”

Jones said the closest library the complexes is three miles away, but most families don’t have transportation so they have to walk if they want to check out books. She said having access to the little libraries will give families the opportunity to further their education by giving them the ability to get a free book and read whenever they want to.

“The kids and their mother were thrilled on Saturday,” Jones said. “They ran to it. They got their book. They were so excited. They held it up. They were beside themselves.”

Ball has started a foundation in the community for what’s to come with his Eagle Scout Project.

The libraries stand three feet tall and are a foot and a half by two feet wide. They all look the same with a brown, gray and white color scheme. In June, Jacob will present the final project to the District Eagle Board to earn his Eagle Scout ran. After tha,t the Lawrenceville Housing Authority is hoping to have more libraries built.

Meanwhile, Robertson and Ansley will supply new books on a weekly basis and even some adult books will be added for the parents. At least one mother plans to have story time at Thompson Square for the kids in that community moving forward.

Chris Ball thinks it’s “pretty cool” that the Lawrenceville Housing Authority took a liking to what Jacob built. He said he’s always enjoyed watching his son achieve his goals. Chris Ball said his son has already surpassed his own level when he was in Boy Scouts.

“As a father, it’s always a joy to teach your son something,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I’m an expert woodworker, but it is a hobby and it was nice to pass a little bit of that on to him. … I was there to be an advisor, but mostly I just sat back and watched.”

The younger Ball said it was nice to have his father’s help.

“I really enjoyed working with him,” Jacob Ball said. “He’s always been there for me. He’s been my mentor and helped me grow into the person I am today.”

Robertson said she and Ansley have worked together to provide access to literacy to kids in the community for several years now. She said their desire is to especially help families without the means or transportation to books.

“This is like a beginning to something bigger, which is really exciting,” Robertson said.

Book donations for the libraries can be left at Lawrenceville United Methodist Church, which acts as a hub for Village of Hope. Village of Hope also has an account at Books by the Pound to help supply books.

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