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Manchester ramps it up for librarian

Manchester Elementary School librarian Kim Marchel, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, said it is much easier for her to get to work now with a ramp at her house. - Chris Chancellor/Staff Photo
Manchester Elementary School librarian Kim Marchel, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, said it is much easier for her to get to work now with a ramp at her house.
— image credit: Chris Chancellor/Staff Photo

Popping and crackling are familiar sounds resonating from barbecues throughout the Northwest during the summer.

But the background often is filled with much more meaningful noise — conversation.

During one such summer gathering, a collection of friends noticed that Manchester Elementary librarian Kim Marchel, who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis about 12 years ago, lived in a home that made it difficult for her to navigate in a wheelchair.

Cathy Banks, a fourth-grade teacher at Manchester, mentioned the situation to the school’s office assistant, Lisa Lightbody, around the time the school year started.

“She’s quite a go-getter,” Marchel said.

Lightbody first coordinated with her husband, Brian, a mechanical engineer at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, to design the ramp.

She then sought donations from the Manchester staff. Rudy Renteria, manager at Ace Hardware, and Jeff Batt, of Evergreen Lumber, donated and gave discounts on supplies.

A team of nine workers needed only two weeks to construct the ramp, which is 45 feet long and four feet wide, and finished it just before Thanksgiving.

“It was an honor and a blessing for all of us to be involved with the ramp,” Lightbody said. “Kim is an awesome librarian and doesn’t allow her multiple sclerosis to get in the way of her inspiring and encouraging our students to be better readers.

“Our kids love to come to library and it’s because of Kim.”

Marchel, 52, became the school’s librarian in 2007, and still serves as a writing specialist.

She said she earned her national boards in literacy around the same time.

Marchel, who earned her degree in education from Central Washington University, has spent her entire career at Manchester.

The South Kitsap High School graduate was hired as a third-grade teacher in 1986 and also has taught fourth, fifth and sixth grade.

Marchel also instructed the school’s drama club and newspaper. She said she misses those activities, but made the transition to the library for health reasons.

The 5-foot-3 Marchel said she never wanted to teach students who were taller than she was when she got into education, but now finds many children at eye level or higher in the library.

They also trade book recommendations. Marchel is reading “The Boy Who Returned From The Sea” by Clay Morgan after a student suggested it to her.

That sharing might not have been possible without the ramp.

Marchel said her condition progressively has worsened the last two years and said she might not have been able to return without the accommodation.

“When I get sick — I run a temperature — I’m like a bowl of Jell-O,” she said. “Kind of like a limp rag doll.”

Marchel said she was touched that so many people came together to help her.

“The whole community kind of got together and made me this ramp so it makes it much easier to get to work,” she said. “It’s delightful.”

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