Have you seen them yet? Signs have popped up all over town announcing a very special summer project sponsored by an important local program which focuses on early childhood literacy.
Imagination Ashe, the local affiliate of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, is celebrating its 10 year anniversary as a premier preschool literacy program located here in Ashe County. The mission of the program is to purchase and distribute age appropriate books to local children between birth and age 5 at no cost to the parents.
Books are mailed directly to the child’s home with the child’s name on the envelope. Imagination Ashe currently serves 753 local preschool children and has graduated (aged out) 1250 children. Since its inception in 2006, the program has purchased over 61,000 books which were distributed to over 1.300 local children who live in all 11 zip codes covering every township in Ashe County.
The resounding success of the program is directly attributed to the consistent financial support of the good people of Ashe County, as the program does not receive any government funding or money from the Dollywood Foundation, which is a popular misconception.
For the last 10 years, many dedicated and generous individuals, churches, civic groups and businesses in our area have dug deep and opened their checkbooks – especially during a bad economy – to purchase and keep the books flowing to kids here in our own backyard. Every contribution, whether it ranges from $10 to $100 to $1,000, has served to fulfill the program’s mission to place a free book in the hands of every Ashe County preschool child. To celebrate and honor the 10 year anniversary of promoting literacy in Ashe County, Imagination Ashe is taking “steps” to create a permanent and lasting display called the Step Project which is well underway.
The Step Project is a beautification project located on the Back Street in West Jefferson. It utilizes and highlights the concrete steps that begin at the base of Backstreet Park and lead all the way up to Ashe County Library. The steps will be adorned with inspirational phrases on their risers that when read, bottom to top, provide a “reading trail” to our beloved library.
The Imagination Ashe Board of Directors has been raising money all summer to pay for the project. They are asking new and past donors alike as well as any other citizen in our community who is dedicated to the promotion of literacy to partner with them once again to pay for the installation of the project. Donors can participate in different levels of giving and in different options.
To be permanently recognized on a bronze plaque at the base of the steps, the giving levels are as follows: $500 – bonze donor; $1000 – silver donor: $1500 – gold donor; $2500 platinum donor. Another way to contribute is to join “The Letter Club.” A letter may be purchased for $50 each and they spell out words in such sample phrases as “Please read to me” and “Let’s Read Together.”
The project includes many phrases which include 239 letters in all, and donors can purchase as many letters as they wish. Members of “The Letter Club” will have their names permanently engraved on a permanent sign at the top of the steps. Letters may also be donated in memory of or in honor of someone and these names will be designated on the sign as well.
“The community support for this project has been simply amazing,” says Kathy Chefas, Board President. “I feel so blessed to know that our community believes in what this display stands for and wants to see this project come to life. It is going to be outstanding.” She adds “It’s still not too late to donate as we have many more letters and words to purchase.” Imagination Ashe is a 501(c)(3) tax deductible nonprofit organization. Donations and pledges are still being accepted by mail at Imagination Ashe, P. O. Box 1745, Jefferson, NC 28640. Credit Card payments through PayPal can be taken online at the organization’s website at: www.imaginationashe.com.
Saturday, August 20th, 2026, 2:00 pm is the “grand reveal” and dedication of the project which takes place at the bottom of the steps at the BackStreet Park. Please join the Imagination Ashe Board of Directors, a representative from the Imagination Library in Pigeon Forge, and other donors, guests and recipients of the “Dolly Books” as we celebrate Imagination Ashe’s contribution to reading and literacy here in our own Ashe County. Also it’s not too late to become a partner in the Step Project by making a financial contribution. It’s a “step” in the right direction.
For more information, please contact Karen Moll, 336-384-4255 or firstname.lastname@example.org.