The Fayetteville Public Library Foundation has received a $1 million gift from the Willard & Pat Walker Charitable Foundation to help with the library’s ongoing expansion project. The library said its new teaching kitchen space will be renamed the “Walker Family Teaching Kitchen” in honor of the family’s contribution.
The “Beyond Words: Finish this Chapter Capital Campaign” was started in late 2018 to privately raise the remaining funds needed to complete the $50 million public library expansion. A millage passed by Fayetteville citizens in 2016 provided the additional $27 million.
“The Walker Family has played a major role in the evolution of Fayetteville Public Library,” said FPL Executive Director David Johnson. “Their gift to the Blair Library capital campaign continues to be honored, as the Walker Community Room is one of the most used spaces in the original library. It was so popular, in fact, that its demand was a catalyst for many of the new meeting and event spaces you see in the expansion.”
The new teaching kitchen will give students opportunities to gain experience prior to joining the workforce. Students from the Brightwater culinary school in Bentonville will come to the library to teach high school students, who will receive concurrent credit through the classes. Johnson plans for the younger students to graduate with associate’s degrees through this program. Adults will also have opportunities to take classes through the culinary program and gain certifications in food service, like Servsafe, that will make them more qualified to work in restaurants.
“The Walker Family Teaching Kitchen is an incredible resource for the community,” said Johnson. “Not only does it give the library new opportunities for public programming, but it also is an excellent tool for workforce development. An example of that is our partnership with Brightwater and Fayetteville Public Schools that allows high school students to graduate with an associate degree in culinary arts.”
The Walker Family Teaching Kitchen will also host visiting chefs, fundraisers and other nonprofits, and is available to rent for private events.
“The most recent gift from the Walker Family put us close enough to our goal of $23 million that we felt it was time to officially ask the community to help FPL Finish this Chapter,” said Christina Karnatz, director of development and marketing & communications. “With 37 percent of our final goal remaining, it will take all of us, one gift at a time, to close the gap.”
The expansion opened January 2021. “It has been wonderful to see how the community is using the new spaces,” said Karnatz. “Visit on any given Saturday and you’ll see the place full of people from all walks of life; we have something for everyone. The goal is to expand programming even further and complete additional projects, but until the campaign is complete, it isn’t possible.”
For more information or to make a pledge or gift, visit faylib.org/foundation.