Did you know that the month of January was named after the Roman god, Janus? According to Dictionary.com, Janus is “a ….. ”
In January we look back and we look ahead. Though we are not mythical gods, we still have the ability to go into the new year having learned something from the previous year’s events.
As I look back at my involvement in the world of literacy during 2017, there are several things I’d like to share. (If you want to know more about any of these endeavors, click on the highlighted links).
- Locally, we added an outreach to the sentenced individuals at the Dearborn County jail. This is a group of individuals who have not had educational services for several years. We have started with the idea of an Independent Study program, in which I deliver and collect weekly homework assignments and meet with them face to face once a month to assess their progress. Since February, we have served 29 individuals, 4 of whom are still active. Fifteen students where released and referred to adult education services in their home county. Four were transferred to the state prison, and because of their diligence in our program, they were able to enroll more quickly in the state-provided classes. This program is part of our Adult Literacy and Education program funded by the United Way of Greater Cincinnati.
- Our Adult Literacy class has gained an international flair! Of the 21 students who have enrolled in 2017, 7 are English Language Learners. We received a gift subscriptions from ProLiteracy’s National Book Fund for News for You, which is their newspaper written specifically for adult learners. These weekly newspapers have generated some very interesting discussions among our students, both the American born and immigrants!
- We are providing tutoring support to the local kindergarten at Lawrenceburg Primary School. Veteran volunteer tutor Sheila Stevenson visits LPS once a week and works with a small group of youngsters for about an hour. The classroom teacher provides materials and activities, which are typically a review of simple sight words, and letter sounds. Sometimes she reads a little story and the children have to say what happens first, second, etc. We’d love to have one or two more volunteers helping out; since there’s no preparation involved, it’s an easy volunteer assignment!
- We partnered with Trinity Episcopal Church in Lawrenceburg to convert an old newspaper vending machine (donated by Register Publications) into a Little Free Library. Trinity is across the street from the Lawrenceburg Headstart classrooms, and the families who drop off and pick up their children love to check the Little Free Library to exchange picture books. Board member Jenna Baumgartner and her husband Rick got excited about the Little Free Library concept, and as a result, there are now two LFLs in Hidden Valley, by the ball fields and by the pool.
- Though the monthly enrollment is smaller than it has been in the past, our Imagination Library program is still active. This program is currently funded through a partnership between the Lawrenceburg Public Library Resources and Services Foundation and the Aurora Public Library Foundation, and because of their generosity, over 3700 books were delivered in 2017! Since its beginning in 2008, over 2000 local children have received monthly, age-appropriate books in the mail at no cost to the families.
- With the support of local business owners Dan and Lena Valas, we started a monthly game night at the Great Crescent Brewery in Aurora. On the corner of Mechanic Street and Importing street in downtown Aurora, Great Crescent is committed to the community, local history, and of course, delicious handcrafted beverages and homemade food. We set up our table with an assortment of games that patrons could play for a $5 donation. These monthly game night culminated in our yearly Letters and Lager – Scrabble Without Scruples event, which we held in November. These activities were a fun way to get the word out about our work and raise some much needed funds. Though we raised a combined total of just over $700 in 2017, our expenditures continue to exceed our income, which leads me to goals for 2018…
2018 is here…and it brings with it new opportunities and challenges…
First, the exciting opportunities –
- Thanks to generous funding from Dearborn County Citizens Against Substance Abuse, we will be starting an outreach to the Jail Chemical Addiction Program participants, called Write and Read to Reconnect. We are still refining the details, and will probably tweak the program as we go, but it will enable parents who are incarcerated to reconnect with their children through writing and illustrating a personalized picture books, (Write to Reconnect) and sending their children a new book along with a recording of their parent reading it aloud (Read to Reconnect).
- We are working to connect Ivy Tech students who need service learning hours with seniors in our community in a program called Storied Lives. The goal is to bring these two groups together – groups that are separated by at least a generation – to help them listen, record and publish a portion of their life story. We hope to share more about that in coming posts!
- We are welcoming a new volunteer, Donna Marple, who will be heading up our Friends of Hoosier Literacy group. Friends will receive monthly updates on the happenings in our organization, and opportunities to serve in a variety of capacities. Look for more information about this in the coming months!
And, of course, as with any non-profit, there are the challenges associated with securing funding…
As someone who has seen solicitations from many different charities, my concern has always been, “Does the money I give really go to the actual cause, or just to overhead?” Charities have many ways of assuring donors that a certain percentage goes directly to serving clients, but when I dug a little further into this approach, I came across a concept called The Overhead Myth (click here to view a 18 min. TED Talk by Dan Pallotta about this concept).
Our organizations budget is small compared to many non-profits; for example, in 2017, our income was just over $27,000.
As the administrator, I concern myself with the practical details, like those pesky little expenses that might be included in “overhead,” such as
- membership dues for state and national professional organizations,
- liability insurance, and
- the fee for renting a post office box…
These are a few examples of the very real “overhead” expenses our organization has, that by themselves, don’t amount to much, but added together give us a significant deficit in our budget. For example, our 2017 expenses were $30,444. (In the spirit of transparency, a more detailed summary our 2017 finances will be published before the end of January here).
Still, we want to make sure that all of our donors know the impact that their donations make, so we will be making a more concerted effort to share those stories here, in this blog, in press releases to the local media, in Facebook posts and conversations, and in face to face conversations.
Yes, there are challenges, and there are opportunities…but the cause is bigger than just one person, bigger than even just a handful of people. The cause is LITERACY, the ability to read and write and contribute meaningfully to our community, to make our little corner of the world a better place.
We look back, we look ahead, and we do not flinch.