FIFE LAKE — Patrons can check out more than books from the Fife Lake Public Library. Like snow pants, with no return date.
Just outside the library’s front door lies a “locker” full of winter clothes available to take for anyone who wants them, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, no questions asked.
It’s the first of hopefully many “love lockers” coordinated by 29-year-old Kingsley woman Caley Mehs. Plans are in place to open a second love locker in Buckley, hopefully having four to five by the summer.
Mehs said she drew inspiration for the project after delivering newspapers for the Record-Eagle in the Long Lake area.
“They have the little free libraries everywhere,” Mehs said. “I thought that was a really cool concept and I would like to kind of build on that idea and offer winter clothing.”
All clothes are donated from those who inquire on Facebook or email. For those who are interested, volunteers can pick up the clothes in-person.
Visitors will find the lockers are stuffed with coats, boots, gloves, and warm clothes of all kind. Come the spring and summer, you might find rain jackets, swimwear or sunny clothes.
Mehs said people can’t simply drop clothes off at the locker, as a way of making sure the clothes it provides are not bottom of the line.
“We’re wanting to put really good quality things in there,” Mehs said. “We want to just go through it first before it gets put in there. The other thing is we don’t want to have people like dumping garbage bags full of clothing. We’re trying to keep it looking nice and simple because it’s at the library.”
Fife Lake Public Library Director Julie Kintner said those who might make use of the locker might not necessarily do it because they can’t afford clothes. For communities like Fife Lake, a drive to a major grocery store takes two hours out of an already busy day.
“You think of the child that comes in and says ‘Hey I want to go to a sledding party’ and you grab all those snow pants and they’re ripped,” Kninter said. “Well, you don’t have time to run into Traverse City to get snow pants.”
Just like the famed Little Neighborhood Libraries Mehs’ project drew inspiration from — the Love Lockers are built to last.
The 4-by-2 foot chests have a curtain rod sandwiched between two wood panels treated to withstand northern Michigan winters. Builder Dave Gonyer of Gonyer Wood Concepts donated his time for the first, then came up with a cost of $900 for materials and labor for future lockers.
Mehs said people have mentioned having building materials donated to trim the cost down, but hasn’t yet.
Gonyer recommended the first locker to be placed at the library because of how much it provides to Fife Lake. Kintner said when she heard word of that, all parties that needed to be involved backed the project instantly.
“There was no question that this was a great idea and that we should definitely move forward with it,” Kintner said.
She thinks the library was a perfect fit for the first locker.
“When new people come in, this is where they stop,” Kintner said. “We’re the Senior Center, we’re the Chamber of Commerce, we’re the WiFi connection.”
The goal is to have four lockers built and placed by the beginning of summer, specifically looking at locations in Grawn, Interlochen, Mesick or Lake City.
Mehs already has received preliminary approval from Buckley Village Board to place the second locker right outside it’s Village Hall.
“My hope was that people will see this idea and maybe put their own up in their own community,” Mehs said.
To donate, visit Mehs’ Crowdfunding campaign at www.gofundme.com/f/love-locker-project and can be found on Facebook by searching “Love Locker Project.”
Mehs said those interested can also send donations to PO Box 33, Kingsley, 49649.
Follow Andrew Rosenthal on Twitter @ByAndrewR