Geraldine “Jerry” Williamson grew up in South Shore. Her children and the Neighbor to Neighbor Literacy Project filled a free library with books, including mystery novels — Jerry’s favorite.
SOUTH SHORE — Two siblings celebrated their mother’s birthday by donating dozens of books to a Little Free Library in the neighborhood where she grew up, and they’re calling on others to celebrate milestones in the same way.
Geraldine “Jerry” McDermott Williamson, who turns 95 on March 11, lived at 1329 E. 72nd Place in South Shore until eighth grade. She and her two sisters attended St. Laurence Elementary School around the block from their home, though it has since closed and is being renovated into an arts incubator by the Rebuild Foundation.
Jerry Williamson now lives in suburban Wilmette, but her children wanted to celebrate her milestone birthday by returning to South Shore with books for readers of all ages.
The Williamsons filled Hasan Park’s Little Free Library with mystery novels — Jerry’s favorite genre — children’s books, fantasy stories, crayons and more.
To restock the book box, Amy and Megan Williamson partnered with the Neighbor to Neighbor Literacy Project. The nonprofit has helped bring nearly a dozen little libraries to South Shore, including the one in Hasan Park.
“We’re like, ‘We need to do something big for her 95th,’” Amy Williamson said. “We can’t have a party — you know, COVID — and people can’t travel, and books have always been my mom’s thing.”
Five years ago, the Williamsons organized a book drive for Jerry’s 90th birthday, collecting 3,200 children’s books and donating them to BooksFirst Chicago.
An assortment of books for the South Shore library were ordered from the Neighbor to Neighbor Literacy Project’s Amazon wishlist, founder Nancy Wulkan said.
The nonprofit will create a certificate for the honoree and “let them take over a box for the day, celebrate and know they’re doing good and the neighborhood benefits from it,” she said.
“Anybody, if they have a special occasion they want to mark or just want to be a good neighbor, they can contact us,” Wulkan said. “We’ll help them find a box in the neighborhood that means something to them.”
The Williamsons encouraged others to get involved with the Neighbor to Neighbor Literacy Project to build, manage or refill a box regardless of the occasion.
“That is what would make us so happy, if somebody reads this [certificate] and says, ‘That’s a great idea to honor my parents’ anniversary or my brother’s birthday or just somebody who loves books,’” Amy Williamson said.
The literacy project’s map of Little Free Libraries and book boxes across Chicago:
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.