Letter: Joe’s M.I.L.L. borrowers happy to have instruments during lockdown

A glimpse of just some of the hundreds of instruments available for borrowing through Joe’s Musical Instrument Lending Library (M.I.L.L.) here in Kingston. Photo via Joe’s M.I.L.L.

The following is a submitted letter to the editor. The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of The Kingstonist.

In June 2019, I became the Library Coordinator for Joe’s M.I.L.L., Kingston’s Musical Instrument Lending Library, a pretty sweet job for a semi-retired lifelong musician!  If you aren’t familiar with Joe’s M.I.L.L., the library was established in 1999 in memory of Joe Chithalen, a well-known Kingston musician who tragically passed away while touring.

Basically, we are like any other library, except we lend musical instruments, free of charge. We have over 1,000 instruments in our inventory and, at any given time, about half of these are out being enjoyed by our borrowers. In 2019, we completed over 7,000 loans to people in Kingston and the surrounding area!

And then came 2020 and COVID-19. The library was closed from mid-March to mid-July. We reopened from late July to late December, but we are now closed again until the latest provincial lockdown order is lifted.

Joe’s M.I.L.L. is one of the partners supporting Sistema Kingston, a fantastic program that has space for 40 at-risk children in a string ensemble hosted at Molly Brant Elementary School. Happily, programming has been adapted this year to meet the needs of families, while operating safely within Public Health guidelines.

One of the perks of my job, besides working in a place full of cool instruments, is hearing from borrowers about how much they appreciate being able to borrow an instrument for free. This is especially true during the pandemic. I have heard from many borrowers, especially parents, who are so grateful to have an instrument while they are stuck at home. I was happy to see a bit of a rush on borrowing instruments, just prior to the holidays.

Like many other charitable organizations, Joe’s M.I.L.L. is feeling the financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. We were able to apply for government relief under COVID-19 provisions, which helped cover some costs. However, registrations and incidental income are greatly reduced. Donations to Joe’s M.I.L.L. can be made directly via www.joesmill.org. We are very appreciative of the generous support from our community that has kept Joe’s M.I.L.L. open for over 20 years.

Have you ever thought about learning a musical instrument and experiencing the joy of playing music? Joe’s M.I.L.L. has a huge variety of instruments available including guitars, keyboards, drums, percussion and many other instruments from around the world. Our friendly and knowledgeable librarians can help you find the right instrument for your musical journey! Joe’s M.I.L.L. is closed now until at least Thursday, Feb. 11, 2020. For reopening details, visit our website, www.joesmill.org or our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Written by Tim Aylesworth, Library Coordinator with Joe’s M.I.L.L.

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