Whether you call it “divine providence,” as Bnos Yisroel of Baltimore’s Language Arts department chairwoman Sara Arno did, or “kismet,” as Wee Chic children’s apparel storeowner Bridget Quinn Stickline did, it must have been fate that Stickline and Arno met in Greenspring Station in Timonium.
“I was there [at Greenspring Station] to take a child to a doctor,” Arno said of last month’s meeting. “And I was in the wrong building. I walked by the store [formerly the home of The Pleasure of Your Company, a stationary store, and soon to be the new home of Wee Chic], and it was dark, but I could see two people in there and also some empty bookcases.”
The bookcases seemed perfect for the library that Arno had always wanted to create at her girls’ school. So Arno went in and asked Stickline what she was planning to do with them.
“We’re giving them away tomorrow,” Stickline said, according to Arno’s recollection. “But you can call Hannah [Rodewald] right away, and maybe she’ll give them to you.”
Rodewald offered four, but Arno would have to pick them up the very next day. And as luck would have it, Rodewald was passionate about literacy issues.
“I do a lot of volunteering for the United Way,” said Rodewald. “A few years ago, I chaired the United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council, and we started a program called ‘Read, Learn and Succeed.’ I found out that it is so important for kids to be reading at grade level by the fourth grade. I’m no longer chairing, but since then, my husband, Lynn, and I have moved forward with literacy issues. We’re still involved with putting books into children’s hands.”
Though Arno said the school does have a library, it “wasn’t the kind of library that would make a child fall in love with reading. I was putting it together on a shoestring budget.”
“The books were old and yellowed,” she added.
Bnos Yisroel was founded 14 years ago, and Arno said that until recently, the school had “only ancient bookshelves and ancient books.” Two years ago, the school benefited from the generosity of Edward Whitfill, co-owner of Ukazoo Books in Towson.
“He gave us about $1,000 dollars’ worth of books, and I only spent $200 on them,” noted Arno. “Do you know how good that made me feel?”
When Arno returned to the future Wee Chic with a U-Haul truck to take the bookshelves, Stickline and Rodewald offered additional furniture.
“These were beautiful custom cabinets, things that would have cost thousands [of dollars]. And now that we have the furniture, we have more of a budget for new books,” said Arno. “The students are so excited about this. I want them to hold a book and say, ‘A book is a wonderful thing.’
“What’s surprised me most is the kindness of the business community,” she added. “All these people just came into our lives because I was at the wrong place at the right time!”