“We have 28 students waiting for a tutor,’’ says HCLC chairwoman Pat Bush. “It’s so frustrating -- we do not know what to do to meet the demand.’’ Those on the waiting list range in age from 6 to 17 as well as adults in their 30s or 40s. In addition to tutors, the Literacy Council is looking for volunteers to be advocates for the agency and to serve on the board.
The council, founded in 1976, provides tutoring for 65 people, ranging from those with dyslexia to those in need of basic reading skills and ESL [English as a second language] instruction. Bush, who had a career as a literacy council director in North Carolina, has served as interim executive director of the HCLC and is again filling in as a volunteer while searching for an executive director. The most recent director left in October after a few months in the position.
The HCLC receives no municipal, county or federal funding. It operates on about $55,000 a year with financial support from the United Way of Horry County, grants and fundraising including an annual murder mystery dinner, an idea Bush brought with her from North Carolina.
Freedom Readers, another United Way agency, advances literacy through eight after-school programs, in Conway, Myrtle Beach and Georgetown County. Freedom Readers is the brainchild of Tracy Bailey who is on leave. “We’ve got more demand than we have people,’’ says interim executive director Sunny Fry, adding that Georgetown County churches have been “a wonderful source’’ for tutors, she said.
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Currently, 160 volunteers work one-on-one with youngsters for an hour and a half one afternoon a week. “It is a major harvesting of person power,’’ board chairwoman Carolyn Ellis says of the volunteers, who include Coastal Carolina University students. The volunteers love reading and are “willing to learn how to be a tutor and commit the time.’’
“We give a new or very gently used book to every child every time they come,’’ Ellis says. In addition to volunteers, “We need money’’ and to help with that goal, a fundraiser is set March 31 at Riverton Bistro in Conway. Silent auction items include a basketball signed by Carolyn’s husband, CCU coach Cliff Ellis.
We encourage those who want to make a difference in their communities to consider working with either of these agencies. Introducing young scholars (the Freedom Readers youngsters) to the joys of reading, or helping adults or children overcome a learning disability will be far more satisfying -- and have a much greater impact -- than another round of duffer golf or other pursuits of retired folks.
Not every retired person has the attributes to be a tutor, but a lot of folks who could be terrific tutors perhaps have not thought about it. If you have passion for reading, the month of March is dedicated to literacy in South Carolina and by many organizations (Rotary International is one) that have long understood the importance of improved reading and related skills, especially in this digital age.