Literacy Outreach celebrates 25 years of changing lives
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Dorothy started it 25 years ago. Barbara continued it, then Linda took over in 1990. Starr picked up the banner in 1995, and Martha has been in charge for the last 14 years.
“It” is Literacy Outreach.
These five women have, each in their turn, dedicated years to the difficult work of teaching nonliterate adults of Garfield County how to read. For 25 years, these directors of Literacy Outreach have sought, trained and organized volunteers so that each student could have a personal teacher.
They have located students who are sometimes part of our “hidden culture” of non-readers in Garfield County.
The five directors have written grants, conducted fund-raisers, filed reports, done research, attended conferences, coordinated schedules, and made sure that volunteers and students alike were honored for their efforts. They have swept floors. They have baked cookies.
Here is the story of the five women who built Literacy Outreach over the years, inspiring hundreds of volunteers, cultivating donors and attracting students to learn how to read and to speak English.
Dorothy Snearly founded Garfield County Literacy Project in 1986. A former teacher, Snearly has long been an advocate for anyone who wants to learn to read, and for years she volunteered thousands of hours to get the project off the ground.
“Back then,” Snearly says, “we didn’t have any idea how many adults in our area could not read. I just knew we needed to help the ones who wanted to learn.”
Barbara Garypie continued Snearly’s work and added new elements to the program. Garypie’s husband, Ren, was the director of the Garfield County Public Library System at the time. He had originally proposed the idea to Snearly. While Snearly and Barbara Garypie were doing the legwork, Ren Garypie took on the task of fundraising for the fledgling organization.
Linda Halloran took over 1990.
“This was the time that our valley began to see an influx of non-English speaking workers,” Halloran recalled. “Our mission became more complex. We developed several programs to meet the needs of young children as well as their parents. We also brought book bags to all the babies born in the county to encourage every parent to read to their children.”
She also launched the popular annual fundraiser, Spellebration.
Starr Svaldi expanded this new direction of Literacy Outreach. To really contribute to our valley’s prosperity, Spanish speakers needed to learn to read and write. Many of the Literacy Outreach graduates have started their own businesses and became outspoken advocates of the program.
Martha Fredendall is the current executive director. She has expanded every facet of the agency’s programs. Under Fredendall’s guidance, Spellebration and the Canyon Shuffle footrace have become anticipated events in the area.
Literacy Outreach earned accreditation by ProLiteracy America with Fredendall at the helm, and is an independent nonprofit organization.
• Begun in 1986, Literacy Outreach incorporated as a nonprofit in 1988, operating under the name Garfield Adult Literacy. In 1998, the name was changed to Literacy Outreach and the organization was placed under the umbrella of Colorado Mountain College. In 2009, Literacy Outreach again became an independent nonprofit and became affiliated with the Garfield County Library System. Close ties still exist with CMC educational programs.
• Dorothy Snearly, the founder of Literacy Outreach, found out right away what a giving community this is. Even before students were identified, Snearly had a list of more than 20 volunteers who wanted to help adults learn to read. And the list of volunteers expands yearly. As of this 25th anniversary, more than 745 people have served as volunteer tutors.
• There are more than 40 million functionally illiterate adults in the United States. A functionally illiterate adult is unable to use reading, writing or computational skills in everyday life situations. Many adults who cannot read develop sophisticated skills to get through life while hiding their illiteracy. This lack of basic skills inhibits most people from achieving success.
• According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, the current adult literacy rate for the U.S. is 65 to 85 percent. The city with the highest literacy rate is Minneapolis, Minn.
• Literacy Outreach provides students with a tutor, the right tools and time to learn. The agency uses a proven tutoring system, trained volunteers, and state-approved standardized tests. Mix those ingredients with hard-working students, and everyone benefits.
• The work of Literacy Outreach has expanded to help immigrant adults learn to speak English. Now, 86 percent of Literacy Outreach’s students are English language learners. Tutors provide language instruction, act as cultural ambassadors, help students assimilate into the community and assist with such tasks as vehicle registration or communicating with a child’s teacher.
• Literacy Outreach is hosting a new program, the Conversation Circle, at all Garfield County libraries from Carbondale to Parachute. The circle is a class of about six students led by a native English speaker, giving new English speaking residents a safe place to use their new language among friends. The philosophy behind Conversation Circle is simply “practice makes perfect.” The more you practice, the better your English will be. Classes will run continuously. Info: 945-5282.
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