January 26, 2016
A crowd of Suwannee County residents gathered at the corner of Dowling Park Dr. and Marvin Jones Blvd. in Dowling Park Tuesday morning, Jan. 26, to break ground at the site of the Suwannee River Regional Library System’s (SRRLS) newest addition: the Jo Kennon Dowling Park Public Library. The library, which was first proposed by Danny Hales over a decade ago, survived several obstacles to become reality and anticipation only made the event sweeter. In 2014, Suwannee County was awarded the financial support necessary to make the Dowling Park library a reality. Funding from the state is only part of what is necessary to fund the project and many in the county have stepped up to fill in the financial gap.
Several county leaders took part in the groundbreaking ceremony. County Commissioner Ricky Gamble spoke emotionally about the hard work which has gone into bringing the library to Dowling Park. His excitement was palpable as he thanked other commission members who were instrumental in continuing the dream. Following Gamble came Danny Hales, former Director of the SRRLS. Hales, as vibrant as ever, spoke excitedly about the history of the project, the hurdles which needed to be overcome, and the positive results of 10 years of effort. Following Hales, Dick Grillo of ACV lead the crowd in a version of “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” with the help of Gamble and Hales, substituting the last line, “Everything’s going my way,” with “A library’s coming this way!”
Betty Lawrence, current Director of the Suwannee River Regional Library System, spoke passionately about the library. A native of Suwannee County herself, she knows the impact a library in the western end of the county will have. She has faithfully carried the torch passed on from Hales, patiently waiting and working toward expanding the library’s services. She thanked the community for its support and the many contributors who have provided financial support, particularly the Kennon and Harshaw families who gave generously in order to name the library after Jo Kennon.
Following Lawrence, Craig Carter, President of Advent Christian Village, expressed his thanks to those who have financially supported the Shirley J. Brooks Archive Wing. The Archive Wing will be built as part of the library and will house over 100 years of ACV history. Shirley Brooks lived in Charlotte, NC and was an administrative assistant at the Advent Christian denominational headquarters there. At her death, she left a bequest to Advent Christian Village and her nephew felt that this would be a fitting way to honor her memory through it. Other donors gave to make this heritage center a reality as well.
Ronnie Poole, ACV Board member and Library Committee member; Frank Harshaw; and Rev. Shawn Johnson, Pastor of First Baptist Church Dowling Park and Library Committee member, also took part in the ceremony. Following those who spoke, a large group consisting of Kennon and Harshaw family members, ACV board members, and Suwannee County representatives gathered to break ground. Tom Kennon, Harshaw, Poole, Betty Lawrence and Ricky Gamble ceremonially turned the dirt.
The land on which the library will be built is already being prepared for construction. The library is scheduled to be completed sometime this year and will be open to the public.