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miscimg_5226I came into work this morning needing a second cup of coffee. I had so many thoughts whirring through my mind as I pondered writing you today. Here’s some of them…Sherman Park, elections, education, Jessica, systems, racism, privilege, my dad, unearned disadvantage, Jerome, history, opportunity, change, hope, Richard, recognition, kindness, power…

When I made my way back to the coffee pot I noticed how all the classrooms were nearly filled with students and tutors at work and I thought YOU did this! You provided the resources for our small but mighty organization to fill these rooms with people who want to learn, want to succeed, and want to give back themselves. You fill the rooms with volunteers (like you!?) who want to help and have the knowledge, time, know-how, kindness, and patience to do just that. In our fall edition of our newsletter you will see just what I am talking about. Julie Clark interviewed one of our students, Alejandra, about her experience, her motivations, her hard work, and her drive to give back. This is just ONE of the 403 stories so far this year. But I am getting ahead of myself. 

2With coffee in hand I sat down and tried to focus the swirl of thoughts in my mind and as I did this, I found it kept coming back to thoughts of my dad. My dad called me a do-gooder when I left my corporate career and started working in the nonprofit sector instead. It wasn’t exactly a compliment coming from him. It was a way for him to express his concern and, maybe, his disappointment in me for making this choice. Over the years since I made that career change, I heard from others how he bragged about me and how proud of me he was. When I talked to him myself, which was nearly every day, he was often trying to pull me into conversations about politics, telling me “dumb blonde” jokes, or sharing the miseries of his life. Now that it has been a month since he passed away from a heart attack, everything is different and, yet, so much is the same.

Losing him has put me in a reflective, searching mindset. I have thought about my own life and how much of it is left. All those thoughts whirring through my mind are related to this. They all seem connected to what needs doing before my time is up. What I see clearly is literacy, and Literacy Services has a pivotal role to play in the complex and sometimes troubled world we live in. Literacy skills are the foundation every person needs to build a long life of family, work, and community. But it goes beyond that, really. When I walked through our classrooms to get a cup of coffee there was no segregation, there was no racial divide, there were white and black people working side by side to reach a common goal. They were building community where it starts, one person to another, getting to know each other, building a base of respect and trust, sharing of themselves and working together towards a shared vision. That’s what makes the world go ‘round, that is what makes a civil society work, that is how barriers break down, that is how we continue to grow and change throughout our lives and make the world a better place. That is how we make our dad’s proud even if he can’t tell you so. And that is how 403 lives have been changed, thanks to you. 

By: Ginger Duiven

Executive Director