BY JACLYN ROSE –
Mary Ditzel is a home school mom who was born in Pennsylvania but was raised in New Jersey. The oldest of four, she spent her teenage years in California and Arizona before graduating high school in 1976 in Tuscan, Arizona. After graduation, Ditzel’s father moved his entire family to Northwest Arkansas before finally settling in Polk County. “My father thought it was beautiful here because of the hills. I believe it must be the most beautiful place in the Midwest,” said Ditzel.
Ditzel moved back to California to complete college and it was there that she met her husband, Peter, a writer and the founder of Word of His Grace Ministries. The couple married in 1983 and have three sons, two of which are grown and married, and one, Robert, who is still in school. “My favorite thing about being a mom is home schooling. We started in 1989, basically with the pioneer group,” explained Ditzel.
After moving all around the United States, Ditzel and her family settled back in Polk County eight years ago. At the time, they took in Peter’s mother, who continues to live with them today and will be 95 years of age next month. The Ditzel family resides east of Cove, Arkansas. “I come to Mena, of course, to do all my shopping and would go to the Mena Library, where I would immediately begin straightening their shelves. I worked in Poteau at the library for a year and a half before Robert was born and have always been fascinated with them. I have library disease,” said Ditzel with a smile.
Ditzel knew the Mena Public Library was opening branches around the area so she spoke with Jolene Thomas about the possibility of opening a branch in Cove. She was then connected with Pat Phillips, president of the Polk County Library Board. Ditzel attended a Cove Town Council meeting and shared her desire to open a branch of the library. “Mayor Joan Headley and the council members agreed to build a special room for housing the [book] collection. This room adjoins the large Cove Community Room and is referred to as, ‘The Book Nook’,” explained Ditzel.
The library opened June 2, 2014 and has over 2,400 items that can be checked out on Monday, Wednesday and Thursdays from 10 am until 6 pm. Many of these were donated by the Mena Public Library to assist the Cove Branch in the beginning and the others were donated by various members of the community. Bookshelves were also donated by the Mena Library and several generous members of the area. In the month of July, 323 items were checked out, the old fashioned way, with a pencil and paper.
Ditzel asked for volunteers and had a wonderful response. Because of the connection to the large Cove Community Room, they are able to spread out in the big space and have held story and craft time for children, as well as classes taught by a Master Gardener, sign language classes, and a crocheting class is now being held on Thursday afternoons. There is also a dance aerobics class on Thursday evenings. They have also had several guest speakers and plan to sponsor a representative from the Cossatot River State Park the second Wednesday of every month. “Our library is more than a collection of books and movies. It’s a lively place in Cove to meet friends and do crafts. It’s a Wi-Fi hot spot where you can check your emails or do a bit of research on your laptop or tablet. It’s a place to learn a worthwhile skill, such as sign language. Our library is a place to nurture our children’s love of reading. We have lots of ideas for the future. We invite folks to come in and bring their ideas, too. We dream big and want to share our fine resources with our community,” explained Ditzel.
“I enjoy the friendly people and the helpful nature of the people in Polk County. Everyone treats you as if you are family. People want to help. It is overflowing with love and you can feel safe here,” said Ditzel.