In 1731, BenjaminFranklin – yes, early America’s influential inventor, scientist and statesman – had yet another brilliant idea: pool the resources of his fellow intellectually curious colleagues and start a library. During those early days in the colonies, books were accessible only to the wealthy and the clergy, and good ol’ Ben recognized that by combining collective purchasing power, books could be made available to many.
And so it began. Fifty subscribers each invested 40 shillings and promised to invest 10 shillings more every year to purchase more books and help maintain the library. The visionary group chose a Latin phrase as their motto, which translates as “To support the common good is divine.”
Two hundred eighty-five years later, the Ephrata community is following Ben Franklin’s prophetic lead with “Sharing the Bread,” an event that brings the community together to support the Ephrata Public Library. In the sweetest of ironies, the event takes place on a property that was a flourishing gristmill back in Franklin’s day.
Built in 1739, Bear Mill was Lancaster County’s first gristmill. Now the property, known as Bear Mill Estate, is in the creative hands of event planner and floral designer Kerry Kegerise and serves as a stunningly beautiful site for weddings, celebrations and corporate events. Nestled in northern Lancaster County, the lush grounds are embraced by the Cocalico Creek and the millrace. To Kerry’s designing eye, it was the perfect setting for the library’s farm-to-table event that celebrates the very essence of what community is: sharing a meal together.
Originating in 2015 and to be repeated on September 10, Sharing the Bread is purposely understated in its appealing simplicity. No sequins or tuxedos here. The clangs of the property’s antique dinner bells signal the end of cocktails and call everyone to dinner. The meal, while exquisitely prepared by former White House Chef John Moeller, is served family style. Bowls are passed down long tables of antique barn wood and white linens. Kerry’s artful arrangements of wheat sheaves, potted fresh herbs and grains decorate the tables in a natural vein. Guests dine under a canopy of trees and strands of soft lights overhead.
Amid candlelight and lanterns, silent and live auctions raise additional funds to support the library’s growing list of services. Venturing far from Franklin’s original concept of a book depository, the Ephrata Public Library is a community center of social service programs, from identifying job opportunities to providing free income tax preparation assistance, with future plans to develop a GED program and serve as a homeless intake center.
One wonders what Franklin might say. Perhaps he would reflect with his original thought, “To support the common good is divine.” A timeless motto for a community – and the world – to remember.
To join the Ephrata Public Library’s 2016 Sharing the Bread event on Saturday, September 10, visit SharingTheBread.org.