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United Way of Lancaster County


Family foundation launches fundraising effort to name library building for Nelson Polite Sr. (video)

The family of Nelson Polite Sr., inset, hopes to have the Lancaster Public Library’s new building named for him. (Photos: Provided | OUL)

The children of Nelson Polite Sr. have launched a fund drive for the Lancaster Public Library, with the goal of having its new building named after the noted civil rights champion and civic leader.

Polite’s daughter, Deborah, announced the plans Thursday at a news conference at Bethel AME Church in Lancaster’s Churchtown neighborhood. She is president of the Nelson M. Polite and Jean Wilson Polite Foundation, which is seeking to raise $2 million dollars.

“We ask you all to join us in raising funds towards this project,” she said in a statement.

The Polite family is asking donors to pledge money to the library directly and to note on their pledge documents that they are doing so in the foundation’s honor. A form can be downloaded from the foundation’s website.

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The library plans to open at its new location at Ewell Plaza in early 2023. It has launched a capital campaign to cover the estimated $10 million project cost, which includes fitting out the new space, moving and setting up an endowment fund.

“We welcome gifts of any size,” library board president Aaron Sherman said, adding that the library is “extraordinarily grateful to all of our donors — past, present and future.”

There are naming opportunities for donors who give $25,000 or more, according to the library’s “Fabulas” campaign brochure. Sherman said a $2 million contribution would indeed offer the donor the opportunity to name the building.

The library already has raised more than $8.5 million, leaving less than $1.5 million to go. The library would be “thrilled” to exceed its goal, Sherman said. Additional funds raised will be used to bolster the endowment.

Nelson M. Polite Sr. died in 2016 at the age of 93. He led protests in the 1960s at the segregated pool at the Rocky Springs amusement park and at Lancaster businesses that discriminated against Blacks in their hiring practices. His public career included terms as Lancaster’s City Council president and the chairman of the city Planning Commission.

He served on numerous local boards, including the Crispus Attucks Community Center, Lancaster’s NAACP branch, Boy Scouts of America, United Way of Lancaster County and predecessor organizations of Tenfold and Union Community Care. He was deeply religious and a lifelong Bethel AME Church member.