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Welcome to Community Corner, a library of some of the projects undertaken by local organizations using grants received from the Ojai Women’s Fund. Check back often as the list of projects will continue to grow!

Special thanks to OWF member Gillian McManus (Caring for Ojai) for her work on grantee writeups.

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Mira Monte Garden of Knowledge (2017 Grantee)

Mira Monte Elementary School opened its new Garden of Knowledge on May 15. Parents and staff worked hard to help bring to life this drought-tolerant garden, which is open to students and the community to read and access the internet.


Little Free Libraries (2017 Grantee)

The grant from the Ojai Women’s Fund has enabled the Ojai Valley Library Friends & Foundation (OVLFF) to install nine additional Little Free Libraries throughout the Ojai Valley. There are now Little Free Libraries at all OUSD campuses and these additional libraries bring the total number in the Ojai Valley to 25.


Mira Monte Garden of Knowledge


On a warm afternoon in May Karen Evenden and I park across the street from the Mira Monte Elementary School to attend the opening of the Garden of Knowledge. The garden was created through the generous help of many organizations, the Ojai Women's Fund being one of them. The OWF's grant was used to make pathways of decomposed granite, benches that are spread throughout the garden and to purchase the drought tolerant plants. Our $7,389.00 contribution made up the lion's share of the $12,380.00 budget and it was worth every penny!

Walking towards the front of the school we can see a group of parents, teachers and children has gathered under the shade in the garden, where they are milling about, sitting on benches, using their phones and chatting with one another. It's a lovely sight and, sadly, a rare one in this part of the Ojai Valley where there are no local parks.


After a sparkling apple cider toast, we join a small group led by two students, Addison Belcher and Nadine Litonjua, who lead us on a tour of the garden, explaining different aspects. The benches are made of rocks harvested from the ground and enclosed in cage like containers. They are unique constructions that remind us of the earth from which they came - wood planks serve as the sitting surface. In one corner there are benches with placards movingly commemorating students who have died while attending the school.


Addison and Nadine tell us about the drought tolerant plants - Palos Verdes and Jacaranda trees, rosemary, Mexican sage, Matilija poppies are included in the garden. They let us know about the wireless signal available to all in the garden and also available to the apartments across the street where families who likely can't afford wifi live. They further explain that the parents of Mira Monte students are the ones who care for the garden, coming in twice a week to water, rake and pull weeds. And up on a fence post, we spy a Little Free Library! Another organization that received an OWF grant!

The girls are giggly and fun and appear proud of their school's garden and their role in guiding us around it. Karen and I are proud, too. Proud of the OWF's contribution to this wonderful, educational and accessible outdoor area.



Little Free Libraries


Kris Humphries has books and the public good in her blood. Her mother was a librarian, her sisters are teachers, she's been an avid reader since her early childhood and has spent many of her working years in the public sector. These combined passions of hers, books and the public good, have led to her involvement with libraries throughout her life. And that is Ojai's good fortune.

Kris sits on the board of the Ojai Library Friends and Foundation. She is the person behind the Ojai Women's Fund grant application requesting funds for the construction, placement and maintenance of Little Free Libraries around the Ojai Valley. She first realized a need for more Little Free Libraries when she noticed that some residents in the greater valley didn't have easy access to our libraries because of location or hours.

What are Little Free Libraries (LFLs)? They are the small, enchanting structures that are colorfully painted and full of books that you can see scattered throughout our valley from Casitas Springs to the Summit School in the Upper Valley. They operate 24/7 and offer completely free books to anyone who wants to pick one up and drop one off.

With only half of the grant money, twelve LFL have already been constructed, painted, placed and stocked and will be maintained.  Local residents largely volunteered their skills which allowed for costs to be kept to a minimum. So it's not just our citizens who use the little libraries who are involved - volunteers constructed them, local artists offered their time and skills to paint them and others helped place them. It's become a community project for the benefit of our community!

The remaining monies will be used to keep the structures full of books, both in English and Spanish, to maintain them and to hopefully build more. Click the button below to view a map of the Little Free Libraries in our area. Note that some are privately owned and maintained, although the OVLFF does help keep them stocked with books.

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The project extends beyond our community as well. LFLs are an international movement with over 60,000 located throughout the world.  Plus communities close to Ojai have helped stock out little libraries. In the recent wake of the Thomas Fire the Hollow Hills School in Simi Valley gave over 1,000 childrens' books to our community and these will go to stock the LFLs.

Seems like these small libraries generate good will. And why not? Kids can ride their bikes on a summer evening to discover their local outpost, select a new book and deposit an old one. Seniors can get to one at any time of day and not necessarily need a car. The LFLs are placed at schools, community centers and churches throughout the valley and people can explore these places that they might not previously have known.

The Ojai Women's Fund's grant has gone a long way to bring books to our residents and involved both our community and other communities in our endeavor. Kudos go to the OVLFF and their vision for a better Ojai and to our members for providing the funds to help implement this little libraries dream.