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North Sydney resident starts book-sharing initiative through social media to help those in isolation
Jim Kronlund only moved to Cape Breton a few months ago but already feels he made the right decision.
Carole Smith of Glace Bay agrees. She is one of the many people who have received free books from the group Kronlund has organized.
“He lives in North Sydney. I was shocked that he did this,” said Smith, as she happily showed three books he brought to her door.
“It’s so hard for me to get out,” said Smith, who uses a walker. “I don’t drive anymore. I can’t even get to the library. These are beautiful books and I’m so happy to get them.”
Kronlund has started a ‘Capers Community Books’ Facebook group where he’s inviting people across the island to drop by his home and sign out any of his books to read, anytime. However, another major focus of the new group includes recruiting volunteers to drop off books free of charge across the island to seniors or anyone experiencing a hard time getting out. Kronlund said these are difficult times for many people.
“To give them something to connect with other people, to enjoy their time a little more so we’re not so isolated,” he said. “Isolation is the lowest form of poverty and is also the cheapest form of poverty to fix. We’ll deliver to anyone who can’t get out. If someone is lonely and doesn’t have any resources to get here to get books, I want to help them, too.”
After deciding on setting up the community book group, Kronlund spent two weeks driving around purchasing 300 hardcover books through online ads.
By Friday, his Facebook group was already up to 31 members, with many already stepping forward to volunteer to drop off books to anyone who can’t get to his house.
Meet Jim Kronlund
Growing up on a farm outside Calgary, Kronlund lived in Vancouver for 11 years but was residing in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., when he decided suddenly to pack up and move to Cape Breton in the summer, adding he only knew one person who lives on the island.
“I just found all Nova Scotians I ever came across really nice,” he said. “I’ve always found them a different type of people.”
Kronlund arrived with only four suitcases.
“Everything I have I got since I’ve been here,” he said. “I slept on the floor when I first arrived.”
Throughout his life, his passion has been volunteering with the elderly and shut-ins, and he wanted to continue that in some way in Cape Breton.
Kronlund said years ago at age 28 at his mother’s funeral, his grandmother told him a story about his grandfather homesteading a 1,000-acre dairy farm in 1922 and how they then married and had five girls.
His grandfather put the word out for a helper and two men showed up: one dressed nicely in a dress jacket, the other was messy, in dirty clothes and alcohol on his breath.
Kronlund said after interviewing both men his grandfather told his grandmother, 'I hope I pick the one I can help the most.' That amazed Kronlund.
“He didn’t say he hoped he’d pick the one that would help him the most, as what you would think in desperate times in the depression," he said. "The next day, the man in dirty clothes, messy hair with alcohol breath came back to start work."
“Every morning he still had messy hair, dirty clothes and alcohol on his breath, but he sat at our dinner table and was part of our family for 30 years.”
The story affected Kronlund deeply.
“I had grandparents who showed me who I wanted to be,” he said. “I’ve gone through my whole life volunteering for the elderly and shut-ins. That’s my passion.”
Meanwhile, Kronlund delivered the first books in the program to Smith on Thursday.
“She was so happy to get them,” he said. “She is the perfect reason why we started this.”
A passion for books
Smith was elated when she came across the community book group and saw the books available for loan. She immediately contacted Kronlund but upon realizing he was in North Sydney, and she had mobility issues with no way to get there, she assumed that would leave her out.
“Umpteen people then answered the call, leaving comments on the Facebook page wanting to help me out,” she said. “People were leaving comments, ‘I can help.’ People that don’t even know me.”
Smith, an avid reader who loves biographies, has read the biographies of both Elizabeth Taylor and Shirley MacLaine twice.
“I love everything actually but right now I’m into the old pioneer and western stories,” she said, adding Kronlund brought her three books including two from the pioneer days.
Smith said so many people are going to benefit from Kronlund's kindness. “I’m so happy to get them.”
Lisa Pelland of North Sydney jumped on board the Facebook group to volunteer after hearing about it.
“With the COVID happening and so many places being closed, I think it’s absolutely fabulous,” she said. “I know the librarians are having a difficult time.”
Pelland said she has a vehicle, is a seasonal worker with Marine Atlantic and with not having any work right now, is happy to be part of this.
“It’s nice to be able to drop off books to people who would love to have a book to read,” she added.
Kronlund hopes people in other parts of the country will start a group like this, adding the groups could even connect.
“This could not only be Cape Breton but go across the country,” he said. “A lot of people like to help, they just need that door opened to them.”