By Cheryl Franklin

When Grove Rotary launches a project, people pay attention! 

Founded in 1946, this Grove, Oklahoma, club boasts more than 180 members and has a reputation for hosting successful fundraisers. The popular Lobster Fest has been known to raise upwards of $135,000 in one evening and all of the profits are given back to the community in the form of grants, scholarships and community projects. 

President Cindy Hefner says the club is the second largest rotary club in the district behind Tulsa. 

At one of the regular Wednesday meetings, she says Grove Rotary members distributed more than $87,000 to 40 nonprofits in the Grand Lake area. 

Hefner says their success can be attributed to the generous members who are always more than willing to get involved. 

“Our motto is service above self, and our members really do buy into that. That’s what we’re about,” she says. “It’s good to be a part of an organization that feels that way and cares.”

From current international projects, such as providing water filter systems to schools in third world countries, to past projects of building playgrounds and parks in their community, members of the club stand by their mission statement of Grove Rotary Club Sees the Need, Takes the Lead. 

Currently, one of the club’s biggest projects is a partnership with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, says Mary Richardson, chairman of the Grove Rotary Foundation. Grove Rotary launched the program in February 2023. 

The Dollywood Foundation launched Imagination Library in 1995 and provides free books to all children under age five who are enrolled in the program. The goal is to inspire a love of books and reading among children.

“We are responsible for finding and registering the children, not just in Grove, but all of Delaware County and paying for half of the books,” Richardson says.

Dollywood Foundation selects the books and ships the age-appropriate books to the children’s mailbox free of charge every month. 

“We now have 1,176 children in one year, which Dollywood Foundations said would take three years to do that and we’ve done it in a year.” 

Richardson says they have even higher hopes.

“We are constantly trying to get the word out and awareness out. Our ultimate goal is 2,020 children, which is the census data of children that age in Delaware County.” 

Members of the Grove Rotary Imagination Library Committee get the word out through preschools, libraries, churches, hospitals and businesses. 

In January, employees from businesses all across the county celebrated Dolly Parton’s birthday by dressing up like her for Dolly Day and collecting donations for the Imagination Library project. 

“It was a lot of fun and helped spread awareness about the program,” Richardson says. 

The club uses donations from members and businesses along with grants to fund the project.

Sometimes members of the club have an opportunity to get feedback from parents of children in the program. 

“We see parents when we go to different activities in the community, and so many have said thank you,” Richardson says. “Some have come up and said, ‘With prices these days and our budget, we wouldn’t be able to afford books, so thank you so much.’ And parents say their kids are at the mailbox waiting, they are so excited to get their book in the mail.” 

The program is meant to serve the needs of kids in more ways than one. 

“You don’t know what some of those children are going through at home, so when they get that book, they can live in that book for a little bit and block out what’s going on around them,” Hefner says. “It just warms our heart to know they are feeling a little bit loved.” 

“Even if they are not in Delaware County, all of the surrounding counties have the program, so we want all families to go online and look it up and it will tell you if your zip code is supported,” Richardson says. 

Since 1995, the Imagination Library has given nearly 200 million free books to children.

Enroll your child in Imagination Library at 

Donate to purchase books for Delaware County children at Children must be registered by a parent or guardian to receive the books. There is no charge to register or receive the books, regardless of income.