Connecting Passions to Projects
Introducing the Donna Helble Literacy Fund

A monetary gift left by a passionate educator and child literacy advocate will impact thousands of Winona County’s youngest residents. Donna Helble was known for her full and benevolent life. Although Donna is no longer with us, she created a legacy of generosity through her will and gave a gift to the Winona Community Foundation for the purpose of promoting childhood literacy. This makes sense for Donna who chaired the popular community-wide “Reading in the Mall” event for 25 years.

In 2020, the Friends of the Winona Public Library wrote a grant proposal to the Winona Community Foundation seeking to bring Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to Winona County. This particular community grant cycle was very competitive with over $200,000 in requests and $43,500 to grant out. Because Donna had made a gift to promote childhood literacy, it was an easy decision by the Foundation Board to match this request up with the Donna Helble Literacy Fund as the inaugural grant.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library puts books into the hands and hearts of children across the world. They partner with local communities to provide a hand-selected, age-appropriate, high-quality book each month to registered children from birth to age five. The Friends of the Library identified a need to reach families that struggle to make it to the library due to distance, time, or mobility restraints. This program will mail high quality, age appropriate books right to their home at no cost, eliminating many obstacles to parent-child reading opportunities. This will better prepare children for kindergarten by developing introductory reading skills integral for their learning success long-term. A study performed in Tennessee found on average, third graders who participated in the Imagination Library as preschoolers scored five points higher than their peers who did not.

The Library intends to launch this program with their Summer Reading Program starting June 8th, 2020. There will be an online registration process, along with hardcopy available. Library staff will be available to help families who need assistance signing up for this program.

Tricia Wehrenberg and the Winona Public Library shares, “Because this covers all of Winona County, we are very excited for the opportunity to reach families who may not be able to come into the library on a regular basis!”

This fund is a great example of legacy giving. Including a gift to the Winona Community Foundation in your will is a simple way to make a lasting gift to our community. We will establish a special fund that can benefit the community forever and becomes a personal legacy of giving.


If you have a literacy project that benefits the Winona area and you want to see if this fund can support it, please contact the Winona Community Foundation President.