Literacy for Life partners with Matthew Whaley for new program

sbirkenmeyer@vagazette.com

Parenting is a daunting task for anyone, as is navigating the complexities of ensuring a child gets a quality education.

Local nonprofit Literacy for Life is preparing a new program to make things a little easier for those in the community who most need help; a $50,000 grant courtesy of Impact 100 Greater Peninsula is enabling them to do so more effectively.

“We hope the mothers and parents in the program will improve their skills to help secure additional employment and help their children do better in school,” said Impact 100 co-founder Courtney Gardner. “It’s really to help break the cycle of poverty.”

Literacy for Life’s Empowering Parents Program heralds an 18-month partnership with Matthew Whaley Elementary School that aims to provide transportation, food, job skill training, childcare services and more to parents in need. The plan is set to launch in January.

“We are excited about that,” said Joan Peterson, executive director of Literacy for Life. “We are extremely grateful for their generosity.”

For many of the organization’s clients, English comes as a second language, making the challenges of navigating the school system even more pronounced. The grant will help the nonprofit group coordinate their efforts, while continuing to provide their services for free. Peterson said if successful, they plan to scale the program to other area schools in the future.

Literacy for Life launched nearly four decades ago with the goal of fostering self-sufficiency through helping teach reading, writing, math and other basic education. The new endeavor is a natural extension of that.

“They will end up with some really good fundamentals,” Peterson said.

Empowering Parents is part of the organization’s larger efforts. In 2016, Literacy for Life served 921 people. The organization provides tutoring, GED testing, citizenship test preparation, help getting into community colleges and more.

Such offerings are accomplished with the help of several dozen employees and more than 300 volunteers

“The impact that this program makes on the community is immeasurable,” Peterson said. “So many people benefit.”

Literacy for Life operates on a budget of less than $700,000 a year. Money from donations help the organization offer its services for free.

Peterson said they’re always looking for volunteer tutors, adding that it’s a good way for retirees to stay engaged. Many of the volunteers are former doctors and engineers, but anyone who knows English well and wants to help is welcome.

Literacy for Life teaches people from more than 60 countries who speak more than 40 languages. The common thread bringing them all together is a desire for a better life through concentrated effort.

“Some of the most courageous, hardworking people you could ever meet are the people who come here looking for a better shot,” Peterson said. “It’s an amazing program with amazing people.”

Want to get involved?

To become a student, volunteer as a tutor or donate, visit literacyforlife.org .

Birkenmeyer can be reached by phone at 757-790-3029.

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