Reading Public Library Foundation
Tax Senior Manager Chris Phillips grew up in the suburbs of Reading, Pennsylvania. He visited the library occasionally when he was young, but it wasn’t until he became involved with the Reading Public Library Foundation that he understood how much impact libraries have on communities. “A library provides so much more to people than just being able to check out books,” said Chris.
Chris has been with Baker Tilly for over ten years, having started his career here with two different internships and now specializing in work with life sciences clients. During that time, he also grew his passion for community involvement and volunteerism with the Reading Public Library Foundation, leading to his applying for a Baker Tilly Wishes on their behalf.
Making an impact
In the late 1990s, the Reading Public Library Board Foundation was created to address a chronic funding shortage. To supplement public funding, it raises money from individuals, foundations and corporations.
Reading, Pennsylvania, a city of under 100,000 people, has just one library but it provides many necessary resources to the community. With Reading having a high percentage of low-income residents, the library is where people go for services including job searching, internet access and health information. Recently, the library played a key role in helping older residents get signed up to receive the COVID vaccine.
The library has also served as a place where residents could pick up free meals, an effort supported by the foundation.
“We knew we wanted to do as much as we could for the community, and this seemed like a good way to alleviate the stress that people had getting food at the height of the pandemic,” said Chris.
To increase digital access for community members, the foundation also supported the library in setting up a mobile hotspot van a few years ago. The van travels to Reading’s neighborhoods, making it easier for people to access Wi-Fi.
From celebrity to treasurer
To fund all this outreach, the foundation puts on annual events including “Celebrity Bartender,” which features local community members at the bar. Six years ago, this is how Chris became involved with the foundation. “I was approached by a friend to get involved,” said Chris. “It sounded like such a fun opportunity and a great cause, so I said yes!”
Chris was then inspired to serve on an event committee, and after two years he was invited to join the board of directors. His accounting expertise makes him the perfect fit for his current board position as treasurer.
The Baker Tilly Wishes grant will be used to further enhance resources at the library. “The library has worked to create new rooms for people to work from and hold meetings,” said Chris. “With the extra funding from Baker Tilly, the library will be able to continue to create these community spaces to bring residents together.”