The donation is part of a national effort between Coca-Cola and the "Reading is Fundamental (RIF)" organization to enhance literacy in "at-risk" communities such as Union City.
"We realized that many communities could use assistance from retailers," said Avilo Alonzo, a community marketing manager from the Coca-Cola Corporation.
According to Alonzo, Coca-Cola contacted Mayor Brian Stack, who in turn told Coke that the library was in dire need of a children's library. Coke, in turn, contacted their larger retailers in the area and asked if they would be interested in contributing to this local literacy program. The three Union City retailers are La Roca Supermarket, located at 4424 Bergenline Ave., Mi Bandera, located on 32nd Street, and Fine Fare, located on Fourth Street.
Added Avilo, "We didn't want to just dump money into this blindly. We wanted to use other resources and really get the community involved." According to Avilo, each store donates $.50 for each case of Coke sold.
Echoing Avilo's sentiments, Stack said, "I am very pleased that a national company like Coca-Cola is willing to get involved with our community. Like all of other city departments and services, the library is trying to live within its budget while still offering city residents the best service possible." The mayor added, "The commissioners and I did allocate more funds for the library last year, but Coca-Cola's donation is very welcome and will make a big difference to the children of Union City."
According to Jim Carroll, sales manager with Coca Cola, the books and equipment donated are worth about $15,000.
He added, "This is a unique opportunity for Coke. It comes through Coke's involvement with "RIF" [Reading is Fundamental, a national organization devoted to the advancement of literacy in the United States]. I think it's been a real success."
According to Union City Library Director William Breedlove, "Coke came to the mayor. He told Coke that the library was in real need of children's books. So RIF and Coke really came through in allowing us to not only have children's books now, but to have multiple copies." Breedlove added, "To have many copies will help us support our programs with kids."
Breedlove went on to say that both of the city's libraries have been without a comprehensive children's section for 3.5 years. "Basically, there was no money in the budget. Things are real tight here. We are running at about fifty to sixty percent of what we need here, money-wise."
Interestingly, according to Breedlove, back when Union City was called "West Hoboken," railroad magnate Andrew Carnegie saw a need for public libraries and donated money for two of them there. The library on 15th Street is the oldest, built in 1903, and the 43rd Street location followed soon after in 1905.
According to Union City Commissioner Chris Irizarry, the donation "is an exciting thing. With all the budgetary problems we've had, its fantastic that Coke is helping us out." Added Irizarry, "This was absolutely necessary. I can't tell you how needed this was."
RIF and Coca Cola have been in a three-year partnership that lasts until next year. In the end, RIF will receive over $18 million in aid from Coca-Cola to help administer various programs that RIF runs nationwide. There are four elements of the Coca-Cola partnership. One is classroom collections, of which Union City was just a recipient. Secondly, 15 "story traveler" vehicles will visit various RIF sites as well as public functions. There is also new interactive section of the RIF web site (www.rif.org) called "The RIF Reading Planet" that encourages adults to participate in reading with their kids in new and exciting ways and has reading games and puzzles for children. Lastly, there are "ingenuity grants" of $25,000 to $50,000 that libraries can apply for that can help "enhance community outreach activities."
According to Ed Diaz, division community marketing manager for Coca-Cola, "We have a pretty big focus on the inner city." Added Diaz, "Our mission is to develop the kids in these towns."
Julio Alonzo, one of the principal owners of Mi Bandera supermarket, said, "Coke came to us and wanted us to be part of their program. We want to be part of helping the community, so naturally, we jumped at the opportunity." Diaz added, "We are very happy [to be part of this]. As a business owner, it is important to be part of the community. Whatever we need to do, let's do it."