Literacy for Life challenges community to Read Between the Wines

Literacy for Life’s latest fundraiser combines fundraising, fine dining and a New York Times bestselling author as its 12th annual Reading Between the Wines event returns to the Williamsburg Winery.

“It gives us a chance to educate the community about what we do,” said Joan Peterson, executive director.

That impact goes beyond reading comprehension to include health literacy, job skill training, citizenship test preparation and more.

Beth Macy, author of “Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local — and Helped Save an American Town” and “Truevine: A Strange and Troubling Tale of Two Brothers in Jim Crow America” will speak at the event. Both books deal with individuals overcoming overwhelming obstacles, not unlike the journey of many Literacy for Life clients.

The organizers were also drawn to the author partly due to her past work as a journalist, when her stories on the underprivileged and marginalized earned her a Nieman Fellowship for Journalism award at Harvard in 2010. A common theme underscores all of her work.

“What she focuses on is struggle,” said board member Terry Murphy. “I think she very much appreciates the work that we do.”

“It’s kind of a natural fit,” said Amy Sikes, the organization’s development coordinator.

Learners who have benefitted from Literacy for Life’s services will also share their stories, which Peterson described as “inspiring.”

Murphy’s role with Literacy for Life stemmed from attending Reading Between the Wines in 2013, when she was mainly interested in seeing “Big Stone Gap” author Adriana Trigiani make an appearance. But hearing the learners’ stories compelled her to join the organization.

“It’s hard not to get pulled into the effort,” she said. That’s the sort of resonance they aim for with each event. “The people here, they don’t just learn to read. This is like a little community.”

Through all the learning, clients can make new friends and find help integrating into the larger community.

Organizers are expecting to sell around 225 tickets for the event, in line with last year’s attendance. By the end of the evening, they expect to bring in $100,000.

Tickets for Reading Between the Wines include a variety of wines and hor d'oeuvres. An auction block will offer up trips to Disney World and other destinations, dining experiences around town and the chance to Skype with Macy one-on-one. All proceeds benefit the organization.

“It’s just a lovely evening,” Peterson said.

Want to go?

Reading Between the Wines uncorks 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Williamsburg Winery, 5800 Wessex Hundred. Tickets are $75, available by calling 221-3325 or online at Some auction items are available for bidding online.

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

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