In December 2006, retired teacher Jean McManus held a public meeting in the Eunice city courtroom, where she spoke to a small handful of attendees about her dream of bringing the Dolly Parton Imagination Library to Eunice.
So it was somewhat fitting that the same courtroom was filled to the brim with attendees witnessing the presentation of a $20,000 grant to Eunice’s Imagination Library by representatives from Louisiana Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
Earlier this year, McManus was named one of eight Angel Award recipients by the BC/BS program, which seeks to honor those who work hard to give back to their community.
The program received over 60 nominations this year.
McManus is the first St. Landry Parish recipient in the Angel Award program’s 15-year history.
“For the past 15 years, we have sought to find those people across the state who do extraordinary work for Louisiana’s children,” said BC/BS representative Tristi Charpentier. “The way Blue Cross sees it, this is our way to improve the health and education of children across Louisiana and to make an impact on our future.”
“It is important, this program,” said Myra Miller, who wrote the letter nominating McManus for the award. “These children are eager to read, to be read to, and they look forward, each month, to their new book. Jean McManus is one-of-a-kind, she’s almost like a mother to me.”
“When I started this, almost no one had heard of it (Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library). Very few. Now everybody’s talking about it.”
“That first meeting, there were my family, my card playing friends, and one or two others.”
Since that first meeting in 2006, the program has grown, under the management of the St. Landry-Evangeline United Way, to include the rest of St. Landry Parish, as well as Evangeline Parish.
Other communities have studied the program to create their own Imagination Libraries.
The program, funded through community donations, sends a free book a month to each enrolled child under the age of five.
Over 90 percent of the estimated eligible children in Eunice are currently enrolled.
With the increased enrollment have come increased costs for the program.
“Twenty thousand dollars will go a long, long way to paying for books,” McManus said, thanking Blue Cross/Blue Shield and the many community members and organizations that have contributed to the program.