Honoring the role of independent bookstores in a community, this year’s James Patterson Holiday Bonus program recognizes two local booksellers with cash grants: Emma Dale at Bear Pond Books in Montpelier and Jenna Danyew at Bridgeside Books in Waterbury. The best-selling author known for his Alex Cross series pledged one million dollars in 2013 to advocate for literacy; 200 independent booksellers have already received grants in earlier rounds. Winners are chosen from nominations of customers, publishers, authors, and co-workers describing a bookseller’s love of knowledge and love of books. Patterson’s program this year, called “Saving Bookstores, Saving Lives” awards each winner a $500 bonus to support their work. The grants support programs to promote literacy, including book clubs, story hours, book signings, author talks, and dedicated children’s spaces. Patterson intends to continue his support of independent bookstores serving local communities in his next initiative: to foster innovation in school libraries. Emma Dale, assistant manager at Bear Pond Books, was thrilled to receive the grant. “We have a great staff who support each other, love their jobs, and love helping people find what they need. People who come in know that we will go the extra mile.” She was nominated by co-manager Cora Kelly and plans to use the money for an upcoming trip to Guatemala. Some of the programs that draw community members to Bear Pond include a SciFi Plus Book Club, and the Not-Just-Fiction Book Club. People also enjoy the “Staff Picks” display, monthly newsletter, and Bear Pond merchandise, gifts, and greeting cards. Emma Dale began working at Bear Pond in 2019 and reflects, “We were able to actually thrive during the pandemic because of the support of the community.”Waterbury-based Bridgeside Books’ Jenna Danyew was also recognized for her service to the community. Danyew says that manager Katya d’Angelo wrote the winning essay nominating her. “There are so many ways to bring people into the bookstore throughout the year. Right now, we are getting ready for the second ‘Not Your Average Date Night’ on Feb. 11 for Valentine’s Day. Last year was a crazy success and quickly sold out. It was sweet watching couples reading children’s books to each other or finding funny titles of books to describe their relationship.” A reindeer appearance during the holidays drew families, and “Spooky Tales” in October was so popular that they plan to offer a second performance in 2023. A kids’ coloring contest to name the owl sculpture is another way to connect with younger readers. The “One Book, One Town” program will begin in April, focusing on a book from a Vermont author published by a small press. Bridgeside also offers board game rentals, and they buy gently used games on consignment. A 1942 Royal typewriter of great interest to children produces “shelf talker” cards recommending books. An old Victrola from d’Angelo’s brother provides music. Danyew is looking forward to wedding bookings at the store, offering couples a special venue among books for the celebration, along with suggestions for caterers, officiant, spa treatments, music, cake or cupcake vendors — and music from the Victrola.