MINOOKA -- David Belden and his local history class are publishing a second book, and he is receiving statewide recognition for what started out as a community outreach project.
Belden and his local history class at Minooka High School started a series of books on postcards, beginning with a book on Grundy County that hit stores in the fall. The book features more than 200 images and pieces of correspondences from postcards from the 1880s to the mid-1900s.
Originally, Belden's 2005-06 classes and the Three Rivers Public Library teamed up to preserve and maintain pictures and postcards for the library by scanning and saving the pictures and postcards digitally.
The goal was to make sure the area's history was not lost. As Belden gathered postcards from all over Grundy County, he decided everyone should have access to the county's history and proposed a book to Arcadia Publishing.
Belden's second book, "Joliet," a postcard history series on Joliet, appeared in stores Monday, selling for $19.99. His classes have already begun work on a third book on Will County.
"It's really cool, especially to walk in to Barnes & Noble and show people this is the book I helped publish," said recent Minooka graduate Kristen Neville, who took the local history class her last year.
The Joliet book includes more than 200 postcards and features old landmarks such as Union Station, the Boston Store, Opera House, Woodruff Hotel and the Hotel Louis Joliet.
The Will County book is expected to be out in stores by February 2010. Once that goes to the publisher, Belden said he hopes to work on a fourth book, "Then and Now of Grundy County."
This school year, Belden will have three local history classes. In addition to working on the next two books, he is hoping to make the postcards accessible worldwide.
"The goal is to revitalize the Web site to showcase this stuff in a kind of online museum format," Belden said. "There are only about 240 images per book, but we have three times as much."
The Web site is at www.localhistoryproject.org.
Belden was given an award in May for his work involving students in the community.
He received the Award of Excellence in the 2008 Distinguished Service Awards Program sponsored by the Illinois Chapter of the National School Public Relations Association. Belden was nominated by Dave DiLorenzo, the high school's director of community relations.
"It is nice that INSPRA was able to see what a difference students can make in their community when given an opportunity to participate in such interesting research projects," Belden said. "The books on Grundy County and Joliet, and the new one on Will County, would never have been possible without their involvement and dedication to preserving and digitizing local history documents."
The award is given to someone who has "consistently 'gone the extra mile' on behalf of their schools, and whose efforts have enhanced education and conveyed its importance to the community at large," according to a letter Belden received from association president Jennifer Tempest Bova.
Belden received his award May 16 at the association's annual luncheon at the Bolingbrook Country Club.