Wendy Rushing has spent much of her life around children—both her own two children and the children in her community.
Rushing is a Winona native and graduate of Mississippi State University, where she earned a bachelor’s in agriculture and home economics. After graduating college, she served as a pre-school teacher for a total of six years in Mississippi and Tennessee.
Then, in 1994, Rushing and her growing family moved back to Winona. Rushing said she decided to take some time off to focus on raising her children.
This time off turned into 21 years before she knew it.
“I just enjoyed it,” Rushing said it.
She spent her days following her two children’s sports activities. They kept her busy with soccer, cross-country, football, cheer and pole vaulting. Then, when her youngest graduated high school, she found herself with nothing to fill her time.
“Being a stay-at-home mom, that’s your life,” she said.
Afraid of falling victim to “empty nest syndrome,” Rushing decided to go out and find something to keep her busy. As a stay-at-home mom, Rushing said she didn’t get to interact with people a lot outside of going to her children’s various activities.
She began to think of ways that she could both integrate herself into the community and continue to work with children. The Winona Public Library was one of the first places to come to mind, she said.
“As a child, I came to this library,” said Rushing. “Then, my children spent time with the library.”
She first began by working as a substitute in the library. In 2014, she became the library’s branch manager. For the past two years, she has also held the title as head librarian. In that role, she heads the library’s summer reading program, which began at the beginning of June.
The theme of this year’s summer reading program is “Libraries Rock!” The library held sign-ups at the end of May and plan to run the program until mid-July. Participation is free and still open to anyone pre-school through sixth grade. Rushing said she’s willing to take on new students up to the first week in July.
Right now, nearly 100 kids are enrolled. In the past, the program has had even more than that, Rushing said. The program allows the students to come check out books that are at their grade reading-level and turn them in when they’re done. After the student reads a certain number of books, they can get a prize from the library’s prize chest.
The library has also received coupons, for items like buy-one-get-one-free ice cream cones, from various local businesses to keep the students engaged.
“We just want them to stay brushed up on their reading skills over the summer,” Rushing said.
The summer reading program has been around ever since Rushing can remember, she said. Programs like that are what draw her to the library.
“I’ve always just loved the library. I feel like I’ve found my place,” she said.
In addition to the reading program, the library also offers fun summer program activities. Students don’t have to be enrolled in the reading program in order to take part in the other summer events. One upcoming event that Rushing is excited for is an act by a musical comedian, she said.
To make her job even better, Rushing said she also loves the people that she works with.
“There’s staff in Kosciusko, and we’re all kind of like one big family,” she said.
Rushing said if anyone were to ever meet her at the library, she would hope that they would have found her to be “happy and friendly and willing to help.”