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Holladay Journal

Local philanthropist transforms lives one book at a time

Feb 09, 2024 11:55AM ● By Peri Kinder

From right, Marissa’s Books owner Cindy Dumas and community relations manager Grace Nielson, were presented with the Utah Hearts & Hands Award for their work in creating a library at Roosevelt Continuation School in Millcreek. (Photo courtesy of United Way)

Cindy Dumas was not a reader. In fact, she struggled in school. It wasn’t until fifth grade that her teacher, Dr. Franklin, introduced her to the Nancy Drew series and she began to find value in books. Although she only knew Franklin for a few months before his death, Dumas said his guidance changed her life.

To this day, she still pays homage to Franklin at Marissa’s Books, a community bookstore Dumas founded in 2013. Located at 3302 S. 900 East, Marissa’s Books is a refuge for book lovers.

Dumas goes out of her way to donate books to schools to help foster a love for reading, but when she was asked to donate books to Roosevelt Continuation School (3225 S. 800 East), she was shocked to learn the school had no library. 

“I think that a school without books, well, I’m not sure what that is,” Dumas said. “I think with this particular school, these kids are kind of on their last chance. I know they’ve had problems in traditional schools. It’s important for a student to be able to go into a library and find something, whether they’re homeless or whether they’re having struggles at home.”

So Dumas created a library for the school. 

“I could build a bookstore in a week, but this was a long process,” she said. “It took all of our brains at my warehouse and my staff who was working with me, and we worked through each individual issue and did a lot of research about creating libraries.”

Her team worked with school officials to compile a list of books to best address the needs of students from grades six-12. Along with fiction and nonfiction options, educators wanted to include career-oriented books to help students move into a trade or career. 

The biggest challenges for the team included creating the cataloging system for the library, learning how to use the Dewey Decimal System to shelve books, how to label all the books and how to create a borrowing system so students could take books home.

In the end, Dumas donated 10,000 books to the school, a value of approximately $80,000. When the books were delivered, one of the school counselors began to cry. She didn’t realize the books would be new, she was expecting used books. 

Roosevelt building administrator Jason Kemble said, “What once was an empty space at our school, came to life because of this gift we received. Some of our students come from extremely challenging life circumstances and many have found a love of reading as an outlet, guiding their imaginations while also helping them academically.”

Late last year, Dumas was presented with the Utah Heart & Hands Awards by Utah Philanthropy Day for her work with the school. United Way had nominated her for the award and Dumas and her community relations manager, Grace Nielson, attended the event that recognized organizations and volunteers throughout the state making significant contributions in the community. 

“I was interested to see what other people had done. I was interested in their stories. It was just really fun to see that there’s a lot of people doing things that make a difference,” Dumas said. “We like our store to be well-known as trying to help the community.”

Dumas extends an invitation to any school in the county to reach out to her for book donations. She works with new teachers trying to set up a classroom, or with organizations that work with children. She hopes her mission to help students love reading will change their lives, just like Franklin changed hers. 

“When I was in fifth grade, just so thrilled to be reading, I was like, wow, this is taking me to another universe,” Dumas said. “To me, a library or a bookstore is opportunity,” 

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