Karen Hartnagle died in July, but her legacy of supporting children endures. The Monroe Community Library is selling Hartnagle's massive Christmas collection on Friday and Saturday to fund a children's reading corner.

The town of Monroe wants its children to have their own corner at the library — and they hope a beloved community member’s massive Christmas collection can help fund it.

Karen Hartnagle was a psychologist living in Carmel who died earlier this year and left behind the collection, said Andrea Starks, a close friend and director of Monroe Community Library Director. Hartnagle was also passionate about supporting children through artistic pursuits.

The gift will expand the children’s books from a single shelf into a library space just for kids in the growing Waldo County town, where the number of children doubled between 2010 to 2020, according to U.S. Census data.

Karen Hartnagle

The sale will also help get the library back on track financially. Since the onset of the pandemic, which put fundraisers on hold, the library has struggled to raise money to supplement the small budget provided by the town.

“We want children to grow up in the library and feel that this whole place is for them,” Starks said.

Over the years, Hartnagle gathered a massive Christmas collection including an estimated 200 ornaments, 200 figurines and standing decorations, and more than 100 gift bags, rolls of wrapping paper and stockings as well as Thomas Kinkade music boxes, said Marge Sheridan, a library volunteer.

“The magnitude of it has been astounding. We didn’t even know where to begin,” Sheridan said. “It’s been a treasure hunt and a head scratcher in ‘how are we going to organize this?’”

The collection will be sold at a fair on Friday and Saturday.

Starks believes the collection helped Hartnagle, who had a difficult childhood, feel secure, warm and joyful.

There was a childlike spirit about Hartnagle and the way she pursued her passions, close friend and Arts ‘n Kids educator Kelly Holyoke said. Hartnagle adored gifting friends beautiful things. Any museum visit ended with an addition to her personal collection. She also ordered the annual Lenox Christmas ornament every year.

Every surface of her home was covered with tchotchkes, and Christmas decorations were often left up year round, Holyoke said.

Hartnagle died in July at the age of 77 after developing pancreatic cancer last November. Many cherished possessions went to the close friends she left behind, but the large Christmas collection remains.

Starks, who was Hartnagle’s caretaker while she battled cancer, had the idea to sell the collection and fund a children’s reading corner at the Monroe Community Library.

Hartnagle was a supporter of libraries and a lover of reading, Starks said. Alongside the Christmas collection, Hartnagle also collected children’s books and toys that will be a part of the sale.

“Kids were close to her heart and having them develop with the best values, surrounded by books was important to her,” Starks said.

Hartnagle’s collections also went to animal shelters, homeless shelters, and other organizations. And Holyoke is confident Hartnagle would be overjoyed to learn Monroe Community Library and its young readers were added to the list.

The Holiday Fair to Benefit the Monroe Community Library will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, at 8 Swan Lake Ave. in Monroe.