ROSEMOUNT, Minn. -- A new program in Dakota County is helping calm kids in traumatic, stressful situations.
Tami Zvolena of Rosemount started a local chapter of the program "Books to the Rescue!" The national program is a component part of the Ohio nonprofit Green County Community Foundation.
Solely funded through donations and grants, Zvolena is able to buy new books that are then given to first responders to hand out to children during a crisis.
"Our officers and deputies are always looking for ways to calm children because it can sometimes be traumatic, depending on the type of call we come to," said Chief Deputy Joe Leko with the Dakota County Sheriff's Office.
Since January books have gone to Dakota County Sheriff's Office, Lakeville Police Department and Rosemount Police Department.
"It's something that kind of tugged at my heart strings. I had thought about it for about a year or so because it's a big project to get into. And I thought, 'You know what, I can make a difference with these books,'" Zvolena said.
Each duffel bag contains about 35 books and includes colored pencils to go along with the activity books. According to Zvolena, each bag costs $250. The program uses a 50 percent matching grant program with Usborne Books & More.
On Thursday, Zvolena gave four bags to the Rosemount Police Department and one to Dakota County Sheriff's Office. The sheriff's office received six bags in January.
"We still do have stuffed animals that we've handed out to others, like scenes of a crash or a call for service to calm children, but the books seem to reach even a higher age level," Chief Deputy Leko said.
"We hope we never have to really use them. Our hopes are that we don't ever have children that are coming to the police department in situations but it happens," said Rosemount Police Chief Mitchell Scott. "And these are books they get to keep. So we're not reusing them."
The Friends of Robert Trail Library in Rosemount has partnered with Books to the Rescue! The group has donated a portion of their proceeds from the annual spring book sale to help Zvolena buy the books.
"Our goal is to have a bag in the squad of every first responder and we'll hopefully be accomplishing that in a very short time," said Jo Gilbertson, president of the Friends of Robert Trail Library.
In the Twin Cities, the program can be found in Anoka, Dakota, Ramsey and Wright counties.
You can find more information, here.