WILLIAMSBURG -- When Jamey Temple lost her grandmother at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, she knew she wanted to find some way to honor the legacy she had left behind.

June Beverly Hill, out of western Kentucky, was one of the first in the state to contract the virus. Temple said after her grandmother was admitted to the hospital, she learned her illness wasn't due to bronchitis as she had originally thought but was instead a deadly virus that has impacted people across the world.

"Unfortunately, she had to go to the hospital because she wasn't getting better, come to find out she had COVID and it just snowballed really quickly," Temple said.

After losing her grandmother, Temple wanted to find a way to help herself heal while also finding a way to honor her grandmother.

"A lot of people have had a hard 2020 -- I just felt pretty beat up at the point and I wanted to give back in some way," she said. "I wanted to honor her, I wanted to share kindness and put some good out into the world."

The way that Temple chose to do that was by installing a Little Free Library outside of her home located in downtown Williamsburg. Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization that builds community, inspires readers, and expands book access for all through a global network of volunteer-led little libraries, according to its website.

"I thought what better way to honor my grandmother who loved to read," Temple said. "That's what she turned to when she had difficulty in her life or when she experienced loss when her husband, my grandfather, passed away, and when I had a cousin to pass away at 14 years old to cancer. When she had all these really tough times in life, she would always turn to her books and she was an avid reader and loved to share books. I thought this would be such a great thing to give back to the community but also honor her so that's where the idea started."

The Little Free Library, called "Be Kind" library, was officially installed in June and has since had several books taken and left inside for others to enjoy.

"The motto is 'take a book, share a book' and it's free, so if people want to browse and take a book home with them, they are free to do so," Temple explained. "If they want to bring a book and leave one behind and then take one from our library, that works too. It's just really up to the patrons themselves what they are able to do. I realize there are some people who may not have books in their homes who may not be able to share and that is completely fine. I have no expectations. I am an English professor, I'm a writer, so I have tons of books that I can put out there, so it's not a problem for me to be able to keep it going."

It has truly been a community project, as Temple said several community members helped to get the library ready by helping to paint things for the library and has seen several community members step up by donating books for others to enjoy. As someone not originally from the area, this Little Free Library has also helped to get Temple and her family more involved and acquainted with others in the community.

"One thing with the Library Free Library, one thing that a lot of stewards notice is that when the community really gets behind a Little Free Library and they love it, that they help support it and I see that myself," Temple said. "I've had people drop off bags of books on the porch all through the summer and the year. Just recently I had an artist reach out to me that paints rocks and she painted the cover of a children's book on a rock and included it in there. Everybody is pitching in, it's not just us and that's what makes it beautiful to me too. The community is really getting involved and they're embracing it and want to see it successful."

Temple and her family have thought of everything, even installing a light on the inside for those who may stop by while it's still dark out so that everyone can enjoy the Little Free Library. The library also has a guestbook where people can sign their name and leave a note for others to enjoy.

Temple believes that her grandmother would have been proud to know that her love of books and her heart for kindness was being shared with so many others.

"I know that she is smiling down because not only does she love books but my grandfather, her husband, was a wood maker and we have so many pieces of furniture in our house that he's made with his hands," Temple said. "It just kind of combines those for me to have this little library made out of wood and then it has these books to share with the community inside.

"My grandmother was the most precious soul, she loved people, you never heard her say a bad word about anyone. She always told me that she turned to books because she'd had so much sadness in life that she needed an escape, she needed something happy and when my grandfather passed she was alone a lot and that helped her fill the time and not feel so alone. To know that something that she taught me, something that was a part of who she is, I can share that with people without them even knowing who she is is really special."

Temple hopes the message that others take away from her finding a way to turn a tragedy into an opportunity is that it is always important to "Be Kind."

"Any opportunity that you can have to be kind to someone or give back, you should always take it because it not only blesses the person that you're being kind to or the person you're giving to but it also does a lot of your own healing and your own humanity, really," Temple said. "We need to be connected and we need to put as much good into the world as we can and I think we need that more than anything right now."

For more information and updates on the library, follow "Be Kind Little Free Library Charter #101805, Williamsburg, KY" on Facebook.

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