Orange County resident, Selene Cortes, graciously donated a Little Free Library, which was installed at Atlantis Park in Garden Grove. A dedication ceremony took place on October 7, 2021 and Mayor Steve Jones presented Selene with a certificate of appreciation. The Little Free Library is a public bookcase that is stocked full of books for children to take home and enjoy. Everyone is encouraged to take and/or leave books to inspire the joy of reading as well as provide an opportunity to share books with those who have limited access.
My hope for the Free Little Library is that a child or an adult can find a book that “takes them away” when circumstances are difficult at home or at work. And I hope it encourages children to read and learn to love to read. – Selene Cortes, Local Volunteer
During the pandemic, Selene dove into a plethora of books. “I was never much of a reader growing up—mostly because my vocabulary wasn’t the greatest. But, last year, I went on a reading marathon and I’d look up the definitions to words I didn’t know. My mind was blown and I wanted to keep reading and learning,” said Selene.
It wasn’t until she was an adult that Selene encountered a Free Little Library, which was located in Irvine, CA. “My first thought was, ‘Wow! This is so cool! If only there had been some of these where I lived as a kid…,’” shared Selene. She started to wonder if she could install one herself. Selene reached out to a Family Resource Center manager who connected her with Daisy Benitez, Volunteer Engagement Coordinator at Orange County United Way, who informed Selene that it was absolutely possible for her to do this.
Daisy got to work making arrangements and figuring out where the best location would be. “We approached the city of Garden Grove regarding the Free Little Library donation, which was a first for them,” said Daisy. “They’ve never had someone donate one to be installed at one of their parks or other locations. After talking through some options, the city recommended Atlantis Park, which is gated, well maintained, and holds many kid and family activities throughout the year—so the Free Little Library will be well used there.”
A discovery I made about myself during this pandemic is that I have a passion for supporting our community and anyone in need. It’s nice to know that I can now be on the other side of things, returning the love. It definitely fills up my heart. – Selene Cortes
In addition to her generous Free Little Library donation, Selene has also been actively involved in the community in other ways. “My family and I were so fortunate during the pandemic. So much so that we were able to lend a hand out to our family, friends, and neighbors. I then began searching online to see where else I could lend a helping hand, and that’s when I came across Orange County United Way.”
Selene volunteered to package food for senior citizens in the community and helped with the Backpack Distribution opportunity to help the United for Student Success initiative. “That one was close to home,” shared Selene. “I come from a low-income, single parent home and I remember, as a child, I went to a couple of these.”
Orange County United Way is so grateful to Selene for coming forward and joining the Home Team of game changers who are making a difference in our community! We are also very excited to partner with the City of Garden Grove for the Free Little Library installation at Atlantis Park!
Thank you, Selene, for your kindness, generosity, and volunteerism!
You are #DoingMore4OC
Want to get involved?