South Elementary School Community Partners with Chester Family to Host ‘Little Free Library’ in Honor of Late Daughter

March 7, 2024
South Elementary School is home to one of the county's newest "little free libraries" as the South Stars partnered with a Chester family in their journey to make a special tribute to their late daughter. 
On February 25, the Yancey family traveled to South Elementary School to install the library near the front entrance of the campus. The handcrafted library, featuring a window and plenty of storage for books, is available for the school community to use, with students visiting the box the next day.
The journey to this moment began as South Elementary School principal Susan Braswell and reading interventionist Jenny Killen connected with mother Amber Yancey via a Facebook post late last year. 
Free Little Library

The Yancey family, parents of Catherine Grace Yancey, stand with the newly installed Little Free Library on February 25, 2024, donated by their family and friends to South Elementary School in honor of their late daughter. (PGCPS Photo)

"Ms. Yancey put out a post right before Christmas that said she wanted to put a little free library in a school in her daughter's memory," Ms. Braswell shared. "Mrs. Killen tagged me in the post and asked what I thought. I responded that I would be open to it, and Mrs. Yancey and I spoke further, sharing what happened to her daughter. I told her our school would love to host her little free library at South."
Their daughter, Catherine Grace Yancey, was born on October 1, 2022, at Richmond's VCU Medical Center, facing several health challenges at birth, including dilated kidneys and other issues with her urinary system. She underwent two surgeries to help her kidneys, but the efforts were unsuccessful, and due to her size, she was not a candidate for dialysis. Remembered as being “tiny, but mighty,” Catherine Grace would spend her remaining days in the care of her parents and the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit, dressing up for Halloween and enjoying the outdoors before passing away peacefully on October 22, 2022.
Throughout the start of the new year, Catherine’s mother and Ms. Braswell remained in contact, and on February 25, the principal joined the Yancey family and a family friend at South Elementary to help with the installation.
"This Little Free Library, donated by the Yanceys and their friends and family to South Elementary School, is the physical representation of their love for Catherine Grace," the family shared.
Students at Library

South Elementary School students look at some of the books inside the school’s new little free library, installed in honor of Catherine Grace Yancey, who passed away in 2022 from health complications. The library was donated to South Elementary by the Yancey family. (PGCPS Photo)

Ms. Braswell expects the library to be consistently filled with an assortment of books for children in the community.
"It will be easy for us to refill the library when our library or teachers have books to recycle," Ms. Braswell said, "hopefully giving the books a new life for our young readers."
The principal said she was moved to be part of such a meaningful tribute, fulfilling the wish of a local mother. 
"I feel humbled and grateful for the opportunity to help the memory of a child live on," Ms. Braswell shared. "One of our former teachers had a baby who was born with kidney disease, and her child was lucky. He survived and is now a student in Prince George County. We are so grateful for all we have. It's nice to be able to give back to our community in any way we can."