Ocala Public Library and Charlotte Ponder Memorial Fund join efforts during read-a-thon

Two-year-old Oliver Hancock reads a book he picked out with his mother in the children’s section at the Marion County Public Library Headquarters on East Silver Springs Boulevard in Ocala, Fla. on Wednesday, April 21, 2021. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2021.

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Posted July 22, 2022 | By Eadie Sickler

The Headquarters-Ocala Public Library, at 2720 E. Silver Springs Blvd., is anticipating a very busy day on Aug. 6. That’s when the Friends of the Ocala Public Library organization will host its Read-A-Thon 2022 as well as the popular quarterly book sale. Commensurate with these activities, a fundraiser is being held to benefit the library’s audiobook program in memory of the late Charlotte Ponder.

The Friends of the Ocala Public Library Read-A-Thon will run from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with readers signed up to read for 20 minutes each in the library’s lobby from the classic book, “A Land Remembered” by Patrick Smith. The well-known book features Florida history from 1850 through the 1960s. To participate, a reader must be able to raise at least $200 through sponsors for their reading time. The goal for the Read-A-Thon is $15,000 and about $10,000 has been donated so far through the online funding platform, according to Joe Kays, a Friends of the Ocala Public Library board member. Individuals as well as businesses can contribute online.

The family of Charlotte Ponder approached the Friends group with the idea of a possible memorial fundraiser in her honor to purchase audiobooks.

Her husband, Carswell Ponder, said that when his wife had failing eyesight and other health issues and could no longer read, which she loved to do, audiobooks became a great joy in her life. He said he would get three to five audio books a week from the library for her.

When she could not leave the house and was unable to do the things she enjoyed, such as reading, knitting and seeing her grandchildren, he explained, “It was the light of her life.”            Charlotte passed away on March 22 of this year.

It seemed a fitting combination for the Charlotte Ponder Memorial Fund to be a part of the read-a-thon.

Charlotte, an active and well-known woman in the community, graduated from the University of Florida. She taught business subjects in high school in Marion County.

“She loved the kids, and they loved her. She had a good rapport with them,” Carswell said.

She later worked as a real estate agent, mostly with Ellison Realty in Ocala. Carswell also graduated from UF and worked in the banking industry for 45 years.

Charlotte and Carswell met at a friend’s wedding. They wed on Feb. 28, 1960, and were married for 62 years. They have three sons, William (Bill), who lives in Winter Haven; Art, who lives in Ocala; and Mel, in Destin. They have eight grandchildren.

Kays said this is the third annual Friends of the Ocala Public Library Read-a-Thon but is the first one to be held physically. The first two were held online due to the pandemic. People obtained sponsors for those events as well and recorded themselves reading from a favorite book. The videos were posted on Facebook. The 2022 Read-a-Thon was planned for February, “but the omicron spike happened and it was postponed to Aug. 6,” he explained.

The Charlotte Ponder Memorial Fund, as part of the overall library fundraiser, has set a goal of $3,000 for the audiobooks program at the library.

“With the growing population in our county, there is a greater need for audio and e-books,” Kays added.

There are eight libraries in Marion County, he said. Many residents enjoy audiobooks…not only those who are sight impaired. People enjoy using audiobooks in their cars while on commutes or on trips, for example. The response to this portion of the Read-a-Thon has been very good so far, Kays said.

The Friends of the Ocala Public Library organization contributes to several arms of the library, including continuing education for librarians as well as educating the community about library services. The board sponsors varied programs for children and adults, and advocates for library funding and work in the community with local and state legislators, Kays explained. “WORDS,” a quarterly magazine of the Marion County Public Library System, is published by the board, which also sponsors visiting author talks. The group also runs the Book Market inside the library.

“We all owe a great debt of gratitude to the members of the Friends of the Ocala Public Library,” said Julie Sieg, Library Director for the Marion County Public Library System. “They work tirelessly to raise funds, plan programs and act as ambassadors for the library with elected officials and within the community.”

While the Read-a-Thon is going on Aug. 6, visitors can check out the popular quarterly book sale. Many books are donated to the library for this event and it is usually successful, Kays noted.

“We expect the library will be crowded,” he said.

Anyone who would like to read for the general read-a-thon, or for the Charlotte Ponder Memorial Fund for audiobooks, may email Kays for more information and to sign up for a time slot at kays.joe@gmail.com. Donations will be accepted for this combined effort. To learn more, go to www.justgiving.com/campaign/ocalalibraryreadathon2022

The Charlotte Ponder Memorial Fund for Audiobooks website is www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Carswell-Ponder. Money raised on this page will be earmarked for the memorial fund and be used to enhance the audiobook collection. Those who prefer to do so may send a check, made payable to the Friends of the Ocala Public Library and addressed to Charlotte Ponder Memorial Fund—Read-A-Thon, c/o Friends of the Ocala Public Library, 2720 E. Silver Springs Blvd., Ocala, FL 34470.

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