Volunteers from a nonprofit organization in London, California are working toward improving the reputation of their community after hosting the largest positive event in the town’s history, community officials announced Saturday.
Library for London officials, whose ultimate goal is to create a library in their community, hosted a 5K run through the streets of London on July 27.
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“Our town was labeled as a drug town for many years,” said Rob Isquierdo Jr., the organization’s founder. “Because of that negative label, many people stayed away from our community… We could have done the 5K in a different community and had a bigger attendance due to familiarity and convenience, but it was very important that a positive event bring people to our city and that the experience happened within our community.”
More than 200 runners and 100 spectators, vendors and volunteers participated in the event, where the goal wasn’t to raise funds for the library, but simply to raise awareness.
“It was a very unorthodox approach,” Isquierdo said. “In this situation, fundraising wasn’t the focus. We actually didn’t make any money off of the race itself. We felt that what was more important was creating awareness of our cause and redefining the reputation of our community… Grants and donations become a byproduct of that awareness.”
In a pre-race speech, Isquierdo “retired” two negative labels people have used to refer to London for years– “drug town” and “ghetto” –and asked attendees to become “ambassadors” for London by sharing their positive community experiences with the rest of Tulare County.
Originally formed in the Santa Clarita Valley in February 2014, Library for London officials have currently reached their book and material goals with 15,000 books collected and are now focusing on raising the $100,000 needed to set up and establish the building that will serve as their library, according to their website.
“Our effort is to improve our community through literacy and education, and we felt like the best way to accomplish that goal would be to create a library,” Isquierdo said. “The presence of a library would offer some educational resources our town fully needs.”
The library is scheduled to open in January, he said.
Library for London’s next event aimed at raising awareness is the London Christmas Parade scheduled for December 16, which will involve bringing marching bands to the streets of London for the first time.
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