A Lifetime of Giving
The annual holiday charity at the Watauga County Public Library
has been renamed this year after its founder in her memory: the Evelyn Johnson Giving
Johnson, who died Jan. 14 at the age of 54, was the long-time and much-loved adult services librarian. The tree was renamed after her because “it was her idea, and the concept embodies how she lived her life,” county librarian Monica Caruso said.
Ross Cooper, adult services librarian for the Watauga County Public Library, agreed that the tree symbolized Johnson’s giving nature.
“The idea was kind of a sudden inspiration of Evelyn’s, and it exemplifies her imagination and her charitable spirit,” Cooper said. “The idea of having something right here in the library that would directly benefit people in the local community combined two of Evelyn’s great passions — the Watauga County Public Library and the wider community of the High Country in which she lived.”
The Giving Tree charity benefits the crisis shelter, OASIS (Opposing Abuse with Service, Information and Shelter), and the poverty and hunger relief organization, Hunger and Health Coalition. Hats, mittens, scarves, coats and other warm clothing may be dropped off at the tree.
“We are also accepting monetary donations, so that we can purchase lettering and a plaque in her memory,” Caruso said, “as the meeting room will be named after Evelyn officially in the spring.”
Donations may be dropped off the Watauga County Public Library at 140 Queen St. in Boone.
In addition to spending more than three decades with the library, Johnson was a fixture in other areas of the community, including the Kiwanis Club and as a Sunday school teacher at First Baptist Church.
“I believe her generosity and giving nature came through daily while doing her job,” Caruso said. “The Giving Tree is just one example.”
Her life of public service and commitment to her job made her the face of the Watauga County Public Library to many. Cooper said many people have said Johnson, herself, was the library.
“The library has not been the same this year, without Evelyn,” he said. “Just the mere absence of someone who was such a powerful, energetic and ever-present part of the library seems almost more powerful and palpable with the passing of time. Silence can be very loud.”
Caruso pointed to three quotations from Johnson’s memorial book that summarize her role in the community library:
“You were our children’s first librarian — they are all successful because they learned to love books — thank you for all you did for the community since 1975.”
“Thank you, Evelyn, for everything you gave to all of us. Your life was an inspiration to so many of us, and you enriched us all by your service.”
“From the first days of when Evelyn began her internship, she loved her job and made us all feel she did. I miss her ready smile and willing spirit.”
Caruso cited Johnson’s generous nature and dedication as being instrumental in shaping the image of the library in the community. She hopes citizens will follow Johnson’s example of caring by donating to the Giving Tree.
“During the cold winter months, many don’t have the basic necessities to keep warm, and this is one way to give to our community … and now in Evelyn’s name,” Caruso said.
“It is such an elegantly simple way to give without great expense and to share with the neighbor who is right next to you,” Cooper said.
For more information, call the Watauga County Public Library at (828) 264-8784.