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Students in Erin Parham’s second-grade class at Tanglewood Elementary read their October book “Creepy Carrots,” funded by the Derby Giving Circle. “They love their books,” Parham said. “Thank you for this amazing gift to these kiddos! I love seeing how excited they get when I get the Scholastic box on my desk.”

In early August Cheryl Bannon, inspired by a TV report about a Wichita teacher’s use of $1 books from Scholastic Inc. for her students to take home, turned a small project into a major community support entity in less than a week.

“I totally believe that if you can read you can learn anything,” Bannon, a longtime Derby City Council member, said. She began contacting like-minded charitable friends on Messenger about pooling resources to fund the books for one second-grade classroom for the entire school year.

“I have a granddaughter in second grade at Tanglewood [Elementary], so I thought I would try to start with just one classroom. I got online on Sunday afternoon and in less than a week I had the money to fund all the second graders in the Derby public and private schools,” Bannon said. “It just snowballed – there are amazing people in this community who have the same belief that reading is so important in a child’s life.”

During the process, Bannon contacted the Derby Community Foundation which manages funds, and the Derby Giving Circle was formed.

“When Cheryl [contacted me] I sent her information on Giving Circles, because that was exactly what she was talking about,” Theresa Hearn, DCF President/Executive Director, said. The Decarsky Foundation Fund added a $2,500 matching grant which helped the anonymous group of donors reach their $4,424 goal.

Although this is Derby’s first Giving Circle, Hearn said they have been around for a long time.

“They are very popular, particularly in urban areas with young professionals because their disposable charitable income is smaller, and they find the power of coming together with all of their resources they can make a bigger impact than trying to do it on their own.”

A Giving Circle brings together a group of like-minded people with an interest in charitable giving to discuss what it is they want to do, the amount they need, and to talk to the benefitting organization about the best vehicle for helping. The Community Foundation is the vehicle where individuals can make tax-deductible contributions, coordinate collection of funds through online giving, issue tax receipts, and suggest ideas of what the needs are in the community, Hearn explained.

Bannon’s vision for the Derby Giving Circle is to fund projects that help children.

“The books were the first main project,” she said, “and for some of the folks involved that is their main interest.”

“The current plan is to continue funding the books going forward,” she said, adding that the Decarsky Foundation has committed $2,500 in matching funds for next year if the Giving Circle can raise that. “The plan is to make this an ongoing event, but there are no guarantees. We [Giving Circle members] need to sit down as a group and see where our interest lies, figure out how to do this on a going-forward basis,” Bannon said.

“I know there is a lot of need [in the community], so we need to figure out how to find what it is, probably by talking to teachers, counselors and principals.”

Bannon said for the time being they plan to keep the Derby Giving Circle at its core membership of about 15 donors.

“You don’t want to get so [many members] that it becomes unwieldy, but for some people in the Circle the reading initiative is more their thing and there are others who are into other ways to help kids, so we’re just trying to find our feet,” Bannon said.

Hearn said there are many community foundations throughout the country and state that have multiple Giving Circles.

“It starts with one idea, one person, and some other group may emerge in another direction,” Bannon said.

Contributions to the Derby Giving Circle may be made to the Derby Community Foundation by cash, check (write “Giving Circle” on the memo line), or online at