STORY — Nearly four years of fundraising efforts to expand the Sheridan Story Branch Library are coming to an end this weekend with music, a barbecue and a lot of birdhouses.
More than 100 handcrafted birdhouses — resembling everything from an inn to a duplex to a mountain cabin — will be auctioned off this weekend at the inaugural Great Story Birdhouse, Bonanza and BBQ. The event is the final fundraiser for an effort that began in August 2018 when Gary and Christine Roberts donated their library-adjacent property to Story Community Library Inc., the nonprofit holding company for the library.
The 40-by-45-foot library expansion will provide space for an expanded meeting room, more computer access and an expanded children’s area, said Patrick Morgan, a member of Story Community Library Inc’s finance committee.
“It allows us to change with the times and get up to speed with modern technology while preserving what makes the library so special,” Morgan said.
Story Community Library Inc. has officially reached its target fundraising goal of $750,000, Board Chair Marc Strahn said. Of those funds, roughly 30% to 40% were donated by Story community members, with a similar amount raised through a sale of a portion of the Roberts property, Strahn said. The remaining funds came from a variety of community grants including a $150,000 matching grant from the Joe and Arlene Watt Foundation.
All monies raised at the birdhouse event this weekend will also go into the construction fund, Strahn said.
“This whole project has been a labor of love, and it feels great to reach this milestone,” Strahn said. “The town has just been wonderful, and we’ve had new donors every year. That just goes to show this is a healthy project that people want to contribute to and be a part of.”
The project will now go out to bid, and the Story Community Library Inc. team will learn whether they have raised enough to cover increased costs caused by inflation and supply chain issues. The cost of the project was originally estimated around $550,000, but increased to as much as $700,000 due to increased material costs related to supply chain issues, Strahn told The Sheridan Press inFebruary.
“The only thing that would keep us from building at this point is if the costs come in significantly higher than expected,” Strahn said.
Strahn said he hoped work on the expansion could begin this fall, with the bulk of work happening in the spring and summer of 2023. Operating on that time frame, the work could be completed by August 2023, which is the fifth anniversary of the Roberts donation.
For now, Strahn is looking forward to taking a breath and celebrating with his community this weekend at the birdhouse event. In addition to the live and silent auctions of the birdhouses, there will be live music by the Dugan Irby Band and others, along with barbecue from Killy’s Smokehouse, Strahn said.
For Strahn, the event is a chance to celebrate the fundraising efforts, but also to recognize the talents and imaginations of Sheridan County artists who decorated the birdhouses.
“Some are exquisite works of art with stained glass and pure copper and rare stones,” Strahn said. “The breadth of creativity in this community and the greater Sheridan County area is amazing, and I’m excited to be showcasing it. That’s the biggest thing that has brought joy to me.”
While the event was intended as a one-time fundraiser, Morgan said there was a chance it could return in future years if it proves successful.
“They could always use a few thousand dollars every year to fund the library,” Morgan said. “A regular event like this could help defray the operating costs out there, and it would be a whole lot of fun too.”
The Great Story Birdhouse, Bonanza and BBQ will be held from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. June 18 at the Sheridan Story Branch Library. The live and silent auctions of the birdhouses created by local artists will be held from 1-2 p.m.