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Chester County Press

Kennett Library & Resource Center nearing fundraising goals

04/07/2021 11:29AM ● By Richard Gaw

By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

Arguably, the most-watched video in southern Chester County these days is not a Hollywood blockbuster, or even a small independent film made on a shoestring budget that still offers its viewers a whole lot of story.

In fact, the film that is receiving a lot of local attention is only seven minutes and seven seconds long, and it wasn’t even created by a filmmaker, but by an architectural firm in Virginia. What’s more, it is devoid of real living actors, and its only images are in the form of computer-generated graphics, but the story it is telling is one about what happens when dreams meet ingenuity, and when determination collides headlong with resources and people.

The video, available for viewing on the new Kennett Library & Resource Center’s website (, was created by Arlington, Va.-based RRMM, Inc., the lead architect for what will become a 31,485 square-foot facility that is scheduled to undergo groundbreaking this August and projected to be completed in late December 2022.

Narrated by Capital Campaign Chair Collis Townsend, the video provides a simulated walk-through for visitors-to-be to the new library, showcasing a future 110-seat auditorium; the Bayard Taylor Conference Room; how the new facility will honor the community’s history; maker spaces for children and adults; classrooms and meeting spaces; the latest in technology; and a 922 square-foot outdoor terrace that will overlook the corner of State and Willow streets in Kennett Square.

While the video shows off the many bells and whistles that are very likely to make the new library one of southern Chester County’s major destination points and an economic boon for the Kennett Borough, it doesn’t tell the story of how a consortium of local leaders and volunteers have been able to raise more than $10 million in hard and soft contributions toward the $18 million cost of building the new library – all during the throes of a worldwide pandemic.

To properly unpack the mission and accomplishments of the campaign is to see the many intricate layers of a planned idea that began in 2017, with three campaigns that remain as the bedrock of the library’s fundraising efforts:

·   A $3 million public sector campaign, whose efforts have received funding from local townships, municipalities and the state, and  

·    A $13 million private philanthropy campaign that has reached out to individuals, foundations, corporations, businesses, organizations and groups

·    A $2 million contribution from the library

Currently, the campaign has had great success with offering naming rights of various rooms and facilities in the new library, such as the outdoor terrace, the children’s library and the auditorium.

The library has already committed several of its spaces for naming rights, including its children’s makerspace, which was recently funded by Michael and Nancy Pia and will be named for them.

While the amount raised so far stands at $10 million, even greater news is expected by the summer. By the library board’s July meeting, the fundraising campaign will be far enough along – about $14 million is expected to be raised by then – to allow the board to approve the go-ahead for the construction in August.

Three key resources join effort

Townsend said that in addition to the work of the library’s Board of Trustees and Capital Campaign Committee, the fundraising for the new library has received leadership from its three honorary campaign co-chairs: Mandy Cabot and Peter Kjellerup, founders of Dansko, and Paul Redman, President & CEO of Longwood Gardens.

“Peter, Mandy and Paul all understand the importance of the project, and for them to come aboard with us is huge,” Townsend said. “Peter and Mandy have been working with us to arrange meetings with potential donors, and two donors have come to us because of conversations he has set up.

Throughout the entirety of the campaign, one individual whose mantra has served as the connective line through every initiative deserves a large portion of the credit for the campaign’s success, said Jeff Yetter, president of the library’s Board of Trustees.

“(Chairman Emeritus) Tom Swett has always said that you never ask people for money. Rather, you let them form their own conclusions,” Yetter said. “We have been on an almost four-year publicity run in getting the word out there, and for many people who have made contributions to this campaign, they have formed their own conclusions.”

The campaign to build a new library for the community does not end with six-figure contributions. Yetter said that the campaign has also included newsletters that have been sent to every home within the library’s 44,000-person service area, as well as a postcard about the library in the second request for annual appeal mailing – all of which have seen a groundswell of support. An additional community campaign will begin soon after the groundbreaking for the new building in August.

“While we are beyond thrilled by the possibility of receiving large gifts from our donors, we are also grateful for the many smaller contributions,” said Mary Hutchins, development associate for the campaign. “We received a gift yesterday in the amount of $55 from a man who recently retired here from Texas.  He told us, ‘This is the best I can do, but I hope to do it every year.’ That speaks to his wish to truly become a permanent part of what this new library will stand for.”

Message of integrity

When Townsend arrived to the campaign in July 2019, he knew that in order for the library to achieve its fundraising goals, it would need far more than just pretty pictures of a library-to-be on nicely-designed literature. It needed to establish itself as a firm foundation.

“My core message is one of integrity – the way that the new library is built is by a board having absolute integrity for the mission and the organization,” he said. “If you run a quality shop, the money will come. It comes down to a question of faith. If you build a good foundation and stand behind your project and get the right people, the community will respond.”

For Townsend, Yetter and Hutchins, their confidence in being able to raise the remaining funds needed to build the new library has been illuminated – and perhaps comforted – by the one continual thread that has run through this campaign.

“There is a generous spirit in Chester County,” Hutchins said. “There is a generous and philanthropic movement here. People love where they live. They want to be a part of that and own it. They have proven that they want to be a part of this new library because they know that it will be life changing for the community, for the businesses and for their families. They know that because of it, our community will be transformed.

“As Peter Kjellerup said at one of our first meetings, ‘The community deserves this library,’” she added. “Everyone involved in this fundraising – from Peter and Mandy and Paul, and to everyone on the cabinet – are all committed because they know it’s for the community.”

To learn more about the Capital Campaign for the Kennett Library & Resource Center – or to make a contribution – visit the Capital Campaign website at, or contact Development Associate Mary Hutchins at (302) 547-2089 or by email at [email protected].

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].


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