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Doing The Write Thing This Holiday

REC sponsors Samuels Public Library’s annual Holiday Writing Contest

January-February 2024

Photo courtesy of Samuels Library.

by Laura Emery, Staff Writer

For 45 years, a public library in Front Royal, Va., has hosted a holiday writing contest that has become a beloved tradition in the local community.

Photo courtesy of Samuels Library.

“Now in its 45th year, Samuels Public Library’s Holiday Writing Contest brings in hundreds of creative writing entries from children aged kindergarten to 12th grade,” says Melanie Mullinax, development administrator for the library.

Youth write on a wide variety of holiday topics, most of which are uplifting and perfectly capture the essence of the holidays by touching on the importance of family and friends, or the magic of the holiday season. However, entries sometimes address challenging topics also related to the holidays — such as having a single parent working on Christmas Day, the experience of having an incarcerated parent during the holidays, missing a deceased family member, or families not having enough money to purchase gifts.

The contest allows youthful writers to freely express themselves creatively, which builds stronger writers and readers in the local community.

For the past several years, Rappahannock Electric Cooperative has sponsored the writing contest. “We were thrilled that REC agreed to sponsor our contest again this year. This now three-year partnership with them is a shining example of REC’s investment in our local youth and their commitment to building a stronger community,” says Mullinax.

“We couldn’t have done it without REC,” Michal Ashby explains. Ashby is youth reference supervisor for Samuels Public Library, and she has been managing the contest for the last 18 years.

REC’s financial generosity made professionally published booklets possible. “They gave us $1,000 to pay for all the booklets, and that’s huge for us. Thanks to REC, these kids will have these books that last forever. REC’s Jeff Hinson, director of member services and community relations, also helps us judge the entries. He’s fantastic. Jeff is a huge part of the reception as well because he helps announce the winners. REC really goes out of their way for the community, and they get involved,” says Ashby.

Contest winners and their families are invited to an award reception at the library itself. This year it was held on Dec. 7 at 6 p.m. During the reception, first, second and third place winners were announced for each grade level. According to Ashby, more than 340 entries were submitted this year. Entries are judged by a panel of community volunteers, as well as library staff members.

Says Ashby, “When these children and teens come in to read their winning work on the night of the reception, you can hear the pride in their voices. It’s a heartwarming event that I enjoy being a part — and it’s a tradition I hope will continue for many years to come.”