By Paul Downer
By Paul Downer
When 16-year-old Andy Hendel suddenly passed away last winter, his parents requested that if anyone wished to show their support for the family they drop off books that the Hendels could eventually donate to schools or other groups.
In the months since Andy’s death, the family has come up with a new idea to remember Andy and honor his love of reading. They plan to open their own Little Free Library this Sunday, July 29, the six-month anniversary of Andy’s death.
"It would be a great day for people to come out and start reading," said Ann Hendel. "We have plenty of books."
The library consists of a small hut built from materials taken from a barn on John Hendel’s childhood farm in Wilmont, Minn. Shelves inside a glass door hold a number of books that are open for anyone to take and return, or take and keep if they replace the book with one of their own. A stand for the library was built and donated by Vos Construction of Green Isle, and is set up at the end of the Hendel’s driveway on Highway 284 in Cologne.
John Hendel said the family has received around 400-500 books through donations at the funeral, from a business donation and from their participation in the Catalyst Foundation. In addition, around 1,000 books have been donated to area schools and hospitals. All books in the library have a sticker that says, "In Loving Memory of Andy Hendel."
"It’s a good way to remember him," said Ann. "With all the donations, this really is a community project. We want to thank the community for its support. We get through each day because of this community praying for us and doing things like this for us."
Books aren’t the only way the family aims to give back, however. The Hendels have been able to contribute significant funds toward Operation Smile from donated funds. Before his death, Andy had been planning a mission trip through Operation Smile, which is an international effort to aid children with cleft lips and similar maladies. Thanks to many donations, the family has donated enough money to provide operations for 31 children at about $250 apiece. Andy’s twin brother Josh is currently planning a bake sale to help continue funding operations.
Whether it’s providing free books or helping with Operation Smile, the family sees these efforts to give back as a way to continue Andy’s legacy as a friendly, caring personality.
"I think this is a way he’s going to reach a lot more people," said Ann.