Puzzle relay at Trail Head in Orange raises $11.5K for library renovations

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 03-17-2023 11:04 AM

ORANGE — A puzzle relay at Trail Head Outfitters & General Store generated nearly $11,500 for Wheeler Memorial Library, which has not had a major renovation since its 1914 construction.

Trail Head owner Stephanie Cook organized the event at her business last weekend and 12 people participated in a puzzle marathon from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Community members sponsored the participants as they would for a charity relay walk, with sponsorships contributing $5,300 to the day’s total.

“It went really, really well,” she said. “We were pretty proud of that.”

Cook also sold goodie bags and raffle tickets throughout the day, and the nearly $11,500 figure includes a donation match from local couple Peter and Candace Cross. Cook also contributed 20% of Trail Head’s sales on Sunday. Her mother, Terry Bouchard, who owns Corner Cafe in the back of Trail Head, served cookies and coffee during the event and Pizza Factory, recently purchased by Paul Whitney, donated pizza for lunch.

At least some of the 12 participants assembled 500- and 1,000-piece puzzles.

“They were amazing, they were so focused,” Cook said. “It was like we were having a big party.”

Library Director Jessica Magelaner said Thursday the library had received the donation earlier in the week.

“It was very exciting,” Magelaner said. “I was expecting us to earn a decent amount of money, but not the five figures.”

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Library officials have said Wheeler Memorial Library at 49 East Main St. is falling into disrepair. At a presentation at Town Hall on Nov. 1, 2022, Magelaner said the building’s basement — where the children’s section is — has extremely poor ventilation and relies almost entirely on ceiling fans and a dehumidifier. The library also needs a new roof, as the current one leaks regularly. The building has no dedicated staff space and one small bathroom. It is also not wheelchair-accessible.

Residents turned down a debt-exclusion override for the Wheeler Memorial Library that month, rejecting a request to authorize the ability to borrow up to $10.4 million to supplement a $5.2 million grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners for a renovation project. After borrowing was denied, the library applied for and received an extension to its state grant deadline, which was set to expire on Jan. 9. The new deadline for Orange to match the funds is April 30.

Magelaner said Trail Head has been a tremendous partner, even selling bags of Renovation Roast, a Mexican Chiapas coffee from local roaster Dean’s Beans Organic Coffee Co. that helps raise money for the library. The Corner Cafe also has a jar customers can deposit donations into.

Cook mentioned she hopes to hold a puzzle relay once a year for the library. Her next focus, she said, is working with other downtown businesses to create a community seating area with a stage for live music between the downtown parking lot and Pizza Factory.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-930-4120.

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