Olathe Public Library partnered with the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts to offer a special patch that Scouts could earn by attending various Hispanic Heritage Month activities. The events are tied to serving others, connecting with communities and learning about other cultures. This partnership was mutually beneficial, as both the Girl and Boy Scouts are reaching out to Spanish-speaking children to join.
More than 15 organizations started planning for Olathe's Hispanic Heritage Month celebration in April. Many of the activities were similar to those planned for 2014, when the group depended on in-kind contributions or low-cost events.
In May, the group decided to apply for the Latino Americans: 500 Years of History grant from the American Library Association (ALA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The library received the grant, and we scheduled nearly 20 events for Hispanic Heritage Month. The events strive to make the city more welcoming to Latinos and give residents a greater understanding of the connection between Olathe and Latin America, which dates back to 1821 with the founding of the Santa Fe Trail.
Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts receive a special Hispanic Heritage patch for attending at least one out of five eligible events. These eligible programs are:
- Make a Memory Box: Create a personalized memory box perfect for storing your small treasures and mementos while you learn about the Santa Fe Trail. Children grades K-5 are recommended for this program inspired by the American Girl character Josefina and presented in conjunction with Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop & Farm.
- Story Walk: Families can stroll along an outdoor trail and read a fun, educational story in Spanish and English. Children ages 3 and under will receive a complimentary book.
- Wild West Days: Experience live music and children’s activities, stagecoach rides and games in the spirit of the Old West. Sunday, Rose Marie's Fiesta Mexicana Dancers will perform.Admission: $5 per person, ages 5 and up; $20 for family of five.
- "Enrique's Journey" Author Chat: Meet Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Sonia Nazario, and join the discussion about this story that puts a human face on the immigration reform debate.
- Latino American Culture: Music by local Latino band Trio Atzlan, a fashion show of traditional Latin American dress and dancing by El Grupo Folklorico Atotonilco. Spanish language CERT participants will graduate.
Additionally, others activities may be applied to scouting-related badges, ranks or recognition. (For more information about the above events, view the events calendars under Attachments at right.)
We've used Facebook advertising, posters, library brochures, postcards and news stories to advertise our Hispanic Heritage Month events. The Girl Scouts created a web page listing the activities, and the Boy Scouts sent out information through an email blast (via Constant Contact) and to "roundtable" meetings with troop leaders.
The costs of these five programs have varied. The Memory Box program required us to buy just a few kits from the local hobby store, and most of the participants in the Story Walk donated their time. Wild West Days  is an annual event staged by the city; for the Latin American Culture program, we hired a local band for $400 and a folk dance troupe for $400.
The most expensive Hispanic Heritage Month program is the author visit by Pulitzer Prize-winner Sonia Nazario, author of "Enrique's Journey ." She usually charges several thousand dollars for a visit. We used the money from a grant to pay for her fees.
The patches were purchased online at Snappylogos.com . The Boy Scouts purchased 150 patches, the Girl Scouts 350; some were paid for with a grant from a local organization.
One way to cut costs is to collaborate with other organizations; a local school, for example, has a mariachi band that we could have hired for an event. We piggy-backed on the Wild West Days, sponsored by the city. Perhaps there is a similar event in your town. We might have used cigar boxes from a tobacconist for the memory boxes, or cheap pencil boxes and purchased beads and bangles for decorations.
Staff needs have varied for the events. Only two people were needed for the Make a Memory Box event. The Story Walk required lots of set-up preparation, with at least eight volunteers needed on the day of the event — in addition to a young dance troupe, painters and other entertainers. One major challenge was finding entertainers to volunteer for the Story Walk. We have about 10 people who have volunteered to pass out surveys and usher the crowd we expect for Sonia Nazario.
You can see a video compilation of our events here .
It's clear that partnering with the scouts has increased our audience. So far, we've held two of the five events that qualify for patches. The first, Make a Memory Box, attracted 40 participants, and 15 received patches. (Last year, we offered the same activity at two locations with only 24 participants.) Our Story Walk event attracted 30 families — nearly 100 attendees. We've received lots of positive comments so far.
Advertising is the key to increasing attendance; purchasing ads is very, very expensive. Look to Facebook and Twitter and other methods of advertising whenever possible.
About This Library
Olathe Public Library serves the seat of the most populous county in Kansas, Johnson County, one of the 11 counties in the greater Kansas City area (total population 4.6 million). More than 10 percent of the city’s 126,000 residents are Hispanic, and the city’s Latino population is the fastest growing in greater Kansas City. For the second year, the library has joined with a number of other local organizations and businesses to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.