Cloquet graduate helps launch assisted living book delivery program

Baihly Warfield
Updated: June 30, 2020 09:33 PM

Bella Zago buzzes through the Cloquet Public Library, grabbing books off the shelves for a special delivery 


She's looking for material for Arlene Rodd and the other residents of Evergreen Senior Living and Sunnyside Health Care Center

It's an idea Library Director Beth Sorenson came across at some of her previous jobs. But she hadn't found anyone to bring it to life. Then Bella come to volunteer. 

"She just was so good and so willing to do things ... such an outgoing personality, I thought, she'd be perfect to start taking these books around to people," Sorenson said. 

Once a month, Bella loads up a couple boxes and heads for Evergreen. On her delivery in March, the residents had requested more DVDs and audiobooks next time. Then she heads for Sunnyside, where Arlene Rodd, a voracious reader, is waiting. 

"I started reading when I was 3-4 years old," Rodd said. "Everyone in my family growing up loved to read, and now all my kids love to read too."

The 89-year-old came to Sunnyside in late 2019. She read through many of the books in the facility's on-site library. 

"I'd go nuts in here if I didn't read," Arlene chuckled. 

Sunnyside even gave her an award, World's Best Reader, when she read her 250th book since moving into the facility. 

"It's the best pastime there is," she said. 

Bella knows Arlene likes to read anything about history -- except for war.

"I misinterpreted one month and only got her war books," Bella said. "She wanted books about Germans, not about World War II." 

Since then, she's figured out what Arlene likes. Her favorite was "Chronicle of the 20th Century." Arlene read the more than 1,000 pages in less than five days. 

"She just reads every day and she loves it," Bella said. 

Bella graduated from Cloquet High School this spring. She's headed to culinary school next. 

She had planned to train in her successors, but the pandemic put the program on pause. Even so, Sorenson said a National Honor Society student expressed interest in keeping it going, so they anticipate the program will continue and maybe even grow to more facilities. 

Arlene has read 307 books since she moved into Sunnyside about eight months ago. 

The Cloquet Library is open with limited services. 


Baihly Warfield

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