AGAWAM, Mass. (WWLP) – The Agawam Public Library debuted a new Turkish section Saturday morning signaling a new chapter for the institution.

“This is really the brain-child of one of our patrons, Ayla Alkan, and she came to us in 2021 and said that she had a collection of Turkish books that she wanted to share with the community at large,” expressed Agawam Public Library Director Nancy Siegel.

“Actually it was Martin Luther King Day, and I emailed to Nancy, ‘Hey Nancy, I have a dream…,'” added Ayla Alkan of Agawam Public Schools.

Two years later, that dream came true. The grand opening of the Turkish reading section includes nearly 300 donated Turkish reading materials. A joyous occasion locally, but the current story in Turkey is a tragic one.

A massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck parts of Turkey and Syria on Monday, and the death toll has since surpassed 25,000. Rescue efforts have been challenged by freezing temperatures.

Ayla told 22News that the Turkish family around the world is banding together for all those, in both countries, reeling in the aftermath of the quake, “I was planning to cancel it and some of my friends said, ‘Let’s do it! This is a time to embrace and be all together.'”

The crowd gathered at the Library for the grand opening on Saturday, representing the sense of community that exists among the Turkish people even amid tragedy.

“It’s a wonderful, generous, home-loving community,” expressed Siegel.

That generosity will be at work at the Agawam High School Parking lot on Sunday, February 12, where a collection drive will be held for earthquake victims. The drive will be held from 1p.m. to 4p.m. at Agawam High School on 760 Cooper Street. Volunteers will take donated items to the Turkish Consulate to reach people in need.

They are looking items that are in new to like-new condition. A few of the necessities needed are as follows:

  • Socks and underwear
  • Winter clothes for adults and children
  • Boots
  • Trousers, sweaters, and coats
  • Gloves, scarfs, and beanies
  • Tents
  • Blankets, sleeping bags
  • Generators, heaters, flashlights and powerbanks
  • Personal care items
  • Food that is shelf-stable or canned
  • Baby formula, diapers, and other items for infants

A complete list of this information can be found at the Agawam High School Facebook page.