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Friends Place invests in GPS

Celebrating the best of Gilbert Public Schools AZ

Donna Petersen poses next to a book display at Friends Place in Gilbert, Arizona.

As you walk through the front doors of the Southeast Regional Library, one of the first things you’ll see is a sign for Friends Place. The main lobby area of the library is reserved for the community bookstore, which began operating in 1999. The space is a reader’s dream with hundreds of donated books lining tables and display cases.

“This is a home to almost every customer who comes in here,” said Donna Petersen, manager of Friends Place.

Nearly two decades ago, Petersen began working at Friends Place as a volunteer. Now she is the manager overseeing daily operations. The retired teacher says her love of reading, kids, and the Gilbert community inspires her work.

"It's been an adventure, and I love it. I truly love this store," Petersen said.

The money generated from book sales goes back into the community, including helping to support libraries and media centers at Gilbert Public Schools. Friends Place made its first donation to the district in 2007. The donation worth $2,000 went to Gilbert Elementary to help purchase new books for students. Friends Place has since donated more than $184,000 to 39 schools in the district with the same goal in mind.

"Everything that goes out of this lovely store goes to the town. It's a community store," Petersen said.

The bookstore not only promotes literacy, but also supports Gilbert students with furthering their education. Friends Place awards $1,000 scholarships to 15 high school students in Gilbert every year. Many of those recipients are part of the Gilbert Public Schools family. Some are also volunteers at Friends Place.

Donna Petersen honored by the Governing Board of Gilbert Public Schools in 2019.

“These kids are absolutely amazing,” Petersen said, “They want to learn, and they enjoy helping. It’s just wonderful.”

When Petersen thinks about the future of Friends Place, she imagines it will continue operating in the same fashion, but she hopes the store will be able to increase the amount of school donations and the number of scholarships awarded annually. 

If you’d like to visit Friends Place or drop-off book donations, the store is open six days a week from 10am to 4pm Monday through Saturday at the Southeast Regional Library. For more information on scholarships, visit the Friends Place website.

Written by Kailey Latham, Photos by Jonason Pauley