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  • Celia Heard

Revitalibrary Phase One: The Purge

At Southern Lit Alliance, we’re dedicated to stories. We believe that great stories live here and do our best to reach out into the community, to find these stories, and to make them. Our Revitalibrary Project @ Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute became a much larger avenue for this than we could have ever expected!

Phase One, the “purge” as we so lovingly called it, was all about making room for the new. We cleaned the space out, donated all the old, outdated, and worn books that weren’t any help for the patients, and organized what we could. Our volunteer turnout was above and beyond our goal, each person tireless in their work. There were teenagers willing to climb wobbling chairs to reach books on top of shelves and librarians stepping back and figuring out ways to organize what had become great piles of “keep” books that had no previous order. Every once in awhile a staff member would walk in and Johnny Payne, the Adjunctive Therapist who has largely been our liaison and partner in crime throughout the project, would introduce them and tell us what amazing work they’d been doing.

Plans were made for the future and several volunteers asked when the next volunteer day was before they left. The impact these volunteers left was profound, but what was even more touching was the story waiting for us when we got back to the office. An infrequently used part of our website is the messenger at the bottom of the page, but the next day, we came back to a message from a mother, telling us about her son’s stay at Moccasin Bend. He stayed there for 13 months. Reading and writing, she said, were huge parts in her son’s recovery, but she had to bring the books herself, all the way from Ohio. She pledged to bring books to us all the way from Cincinnati for our book drive beginning this week.

In true So Lit spirit, we asked her for more. In five short sentences was a novel waiting, a story on how literature can uplift and help people in profound ways. A story that lies so closely to So Lit's soul and mission. "Found" is Carlotta Lively’s story of finding her son deep in the heart of the South. Read it next on the blog!

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