As a boy growing up in Illinois in the Depression era of the 1930s, Jim Dunlevey and his family had to go without a lot.
Never was there a shortage of books, however, even though his parents lacked the money to buy them.
"My mother taught me how to read with books she checked out from the library," said Dunlevey. "There wasn't much money to buy books, but we had a library right next door to the grocery store where my dad worked.
"Now we have this nice, new library with 16 computers for the adults but still thousands of books for everyone. When I see mothers leaving the library with books for their children, it takes me back to my childhood."
That love of reading and the valuable community resource of a library are the reasons Dunlevey has played such an important role in the Menifee area for so many years. Virtually ever since he retired from his job as a court administrator in Pasadena and moved to Sun City in 1996, Dunlevey has been involved with the Sun City Library and its primary support group.
Last month, Dunlevey retired from his position as president of the Friends of the Sun City Library after serving for 12 years. Considering the president is elected for a two-year term, it's obvious that Dunlevey was willing to do more than his share in serving the organization.
"A lot of people over the years have put in a lot of time here," said Dunlevey, who still serves on the group's board of directors. "I just got the longest sentence, I guess."
Dunlevey's smile when making that comment is evidence of the joy he receives from helping to support the library and reading for Menifee Valley residents of all ages. Although there were no computers in the library of his youth and a much smaller Sun City Library when he arrived here, Dunlevey has adapted to changing times while maintaining his youthful enthusiasm for books.
Soon after moving to Sun City, Dunlevey began volunteering for the Friends of the Library by picking up donated books from residents in the area. Today, he supervises the Friends of the Library used bookstore, located in the front of the library. Under Dunlevey's direction, the group collects donated books, sorts and prices them, and sells them to local residents. Nearly all the prices are under $4.
This week, Dunlevey and other members of the Friends of the Library are preparing for an event held four times a year to clear out surplus inventory -- a "Bag of Books for a Buck" sale. In that sale, scheduled for Feb. 25 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., residents can take home all the books they can carry in a bag for a total of just $1.
Even with these modest prices, the Friends of the Library averages more than $2,000 per month in sales. This money is used to fund a variety of programs, including children's story time, the appearance of guest speakers, and workshops.
All of this takes place in a library building that was almost completely rebuilt two years ago, expanding what was once a bank building to an 11,000-square-foot, state of the art facility on the corner of Bradley Road and Cherry Hills Blvd. Built at a cost of $4 million with funding secured by County Supervisor Jeff Stone, the renovation and expansion of the library was primarily the idea of Dunlevey.
Through his tireless efforts in promoting the idea and suggesting to Stone an expansion of the existing property, Dunlevey was able to enjoy the day in February 2010 when residents packed the house for the dedication ceremony.
An electronic counter recorded the number of patrons as they passed through the front door. At the end of the day, the total on the counter was about 1,400. Remembering all the children who attended, Dunlevey disputed that total.
"I said that can't be," Dunlevey recalled with a laugh. "I told them that most of the folks must've been too short to hit the counter when they walked in."
As it turned out, Dunlevey was right. And today, thanks to his help and the support of many others, about 25,000 children and adults visit the Sun City Library each month.