Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Two Who Made FRIENDS of The BROWN LIBRARY Happen

A Tribute to Dave and Nancy Nash

Ever wonder how Friends of the Brown Library got its start? If we trace its roots as near the beginning as we can get, we find ourselves at the door of the Washington Women’s Club, and Eleanor Rollins, who 23 years ago had the brilliant idea to encourage two newcomers to Washington, Dave and Nancy Nash, to get involved. Since then, for more than twenty years, the Nashes have been the keystone of the Friends. They were handed a mission and have worked hard and long to build it into the sustaining community of volunteers we are today.

“After Dave retired and we moved here from Connecticut, I looked for a way to meet people and get involved in the community,” Nancy told us one afternoon in her cozy river-view house. “Volunteering was something both Dave and I had done for years in our previous lives, and we knew it was a good way to settle into our new town.”

When Eleanor approached them, Nancy said, she simply handed her a box of paper slips, and told her it was the Friends of the Library! We’ve come pretty far out of that box since then, and we have both Nashes to thank for that progress.

“We found that people were really responsive,” Nancy continued, especially the many transplants from other places who had, like the Nashes, been charmed by Washington and Beaufort County. Public response was so high, in fact, that Howard Chapin, then our representative, got some State money to help expand the library.

The Nashes worked as a team. They threw themselves into the project, rousing enthusiasm for library needs. Dave, who always prided himself on being a writer—“he was a stickler for grammar, especially!” Nancy remembers—was also a great storyteller. He pushed Nancy to be the new president of the Friends, promising that he would keep notes, write articles, and drum up publicity for the Friends. Using his two great talents to get the word out, Dave also started this very newsletter, and he kept it lively until just a few years ago, when health problems nudged him to the side. This spring he sadly passed away, but his enthusiasm is still felt among the Friends. The Annual Book Sale is a shining case in point. Even last January, we found Dave walking among the aisles of books talking to his many friends.

When we consider the thousand cases of books we have stored for sale this year, it’s a shock to listen to Nancy talk about their first book sales.

“We began by setting up two tables between the stacks in the old library and offering discarded library books to patrons for small change. We made $40 the first year! Our next space was the old mall on Fifteenth Street, where there was an empty shoe store with nice shelves; our take from that was $400.”

Eventually, they grew into the Civic Center, filling it more and more until there have been as many as 25,000 donated books, making as much as $20,000 for Brown’s necessities, from furnishings, shelving and materials to children’s programs and computer equipment. Nancy still takes charge of organizing the volunteers who set up the sale and act as cashiers and helpers—over 100 willing workers in all.

But that wasn’t their only project. Nancy had also gotten involved in Garden Club—“I don’t know how I got that bug, but I did!”—and even there put forth her own ideas of how to improve life for the library and those who use it. She had seen June Nance build the quiet garden at the hospital, and went to work trying to convince the library trustees to accept a similar garden for the library.

“Persuading them was a struggle!” Nancy laughs, but finally they agreed, and Clay Carter drew up a plan for it. The Garden Club, she says, was really excited to have this good project to work on. Celeste Wood, a great gardener, works on it now, with help from others, keeping the lovely landscape a welcoming place for reading, thinking, resting. Friends of the Library have appropriately named the garden after the Nashes.

Nancy is so pleased to see how their successes have carried on, and how both the Friends and the Brown Library have grown and flourished because of continued community effort. She loves the way the Friends generate ideas and work hard at them. Supporting the library is essential for the welfare of Washington, but it’s also the spirit of fun and togetherness that brings so many out for Friends programs and projects.

Nancy and Dave Nash continue to be our inspirations. Our work is a tribute to their leadership, one with such a long and sustaining vision.

Written By:Rachel V. Mills

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