The Toy Library has been entertaining kids for a decade.
LEWISTON – For 2-year-old Daniel Gensemer, a trip to the Toy Library is all about the sandbox.

In navy blue socks and dusty pants, he hunkers down in the middle of the room-sized enclosure. He is surrounded by colorful trucks and shovels and pails, and for a moment, he doesn’t know what to try first.

With a grin, he digs into the sand with his fist.

“They’re never bored here, that’s for sure,” said his mother, Nynke van der Berg, as she watched from across the room.

In the basement of the United Baptist Church, the Toy Library has been entertaining kids like Daniel for a decade.

The playroom boasts a huge yellow slide, a pair of bright red tricycles and a fully stocked craft corner. Young patrons can seesaw on a plastic alligator or “cook” in the kid-sized kitchen, toss a ball or climb the clubhouse to survey their kingdom.

But all is not perfect in toyland. A recent flood and wall damage has closed the Toy Library’s reading room. The playroom’s walls could use some paint and its floors, a new carpet.

To get the money for the work, Toy Library officials will turn next week to a fund-raiser, emphasis on “fun.”
High energy
Created in the early 1990s by a group of stay-at-home moms, the Toy Library is a unique indoor play area where the area’s youngest residents can safely climb, build and create at little cost to their parents.

Open six days a week, the place is not affiliated with the church. It is run entirely by parent volunteers.

“There’s something for every different age,” said Tina Rousseau, a member of the Toy Library’s Board of Directors and a mother of four. “It kind of gets their imaginations going.”

On one recent Thursday morning, families started arriving shortly after the doors opened at 9 a.m. Within an hour, the place was filled with high-energy kids and their parents.

“It’s a social interaction with other kids. For parents, it’s a chance to socialize with other adults,” said Corinna Rowe, board president and mother of two children.

Jacynda Rousseau had been coming to the Toy Library since she was 3. Now 10, she’s lost interest in the sandbox, but the craft corner’s supply of tissue paper, glue and markers still keeps her attention when there is no school.

“Usually, I’ll go make lots of stuff and then go play with my brothers. Or if there are other kids here who don’t have anyone to play with, I’ll play with them,” she said.
Pizza party
The craft corner, sandbox and slide are some of the most popular areas. But officials would like to bring back another once-popular section: the reading room.

A flood damaged some of the children’s books this winter. When it reopened a few weeks later, officials noticed plaster flaking from the old walls.

They closed it again for repairs, blocking the doorway with a pink and white Fisher-Price dress-up table.

“We’re going to totally redo it,” said Rowe, who has plans to repair the walls, soundproof the room and paint a mural.

For years, the Toy Library has been self-sufficient, with rent and operating costs paid by membership fees and the money earned from birthday parties.

To raise the money for repairs and other cosmetic improvements, Toy Library officials decided go with what they know best: fun.

The first of several monthly pizza party fund-raisers will be held at noon on Friday, April 30.

For $3, each child will get lunch and time in the Toy Library.

But even without the reading room, without creative murals and new carpeting in primary colors, the Toy Library’s young patrons say the place is good.

“I like the arts and crafts. And the kitchen. And the bikes,” said 6-year-old Angel Rousseau. “I like all of it.”

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