By Lindsey Kuglin
Unless funds come in quickly, the 22-year run of free literacy tutoring in Bruce and Grey Counties will come to an end by the end of the year.
“We’re in a critical situation. We have a month’s funding. I’ll call a spade a spade; we’re in trouble,” said South Grey Bruce Youth Literacy Council co-ordinator Linette Jones at a press conference last week. “We are seeking your support to help us keep our doors open, making youth literacy a priority in our community, without your support, the doors will close in January.”
The organization tutors school-age youth, who otherwise, might not get the help they need to be able to succeed in school.
Jones said it has been a “perfect storm” for the organization, which she said is feeling the lingering effects of the recession, and an increased demand for their services.
Volunteer treasurer Harvey McFadden said the operation is as “bare bones” as it can get, with a $60,000 annual budget, two part-time staff (one in Bruce County, one in Grey), and 40 children on the waiting list for tutoring. Their office for the council is in the Craig MacDonald Reddon Insurance building in Hanover, which has been rented to them at an “extremely low” rate, Jones said, “because they believe in what we do.” Following the press conference, CMR Insurance owner Danny Craig pledged the office would be rent free next year if they can meet their operating budget.
McFadden said if they had 10 corporate sponsors give $5,000 a year, they could raise the rest.
Francesca Dobbyn, Executive Director with the United Way of Bruce Grey said this situation isn’t unique.
“This is not the only agency we’re working with in this situation. It’s getting harder and harder to raise money,” she said at the press conference.
“We’re seeing in communities where organizations were giving thousands, now they’re giving hundreds, and where they were giving hundreds, now it’s $50 or $20,” Dobbyn said. “But what a risk we’re running if we lose an organization like this.”
She said the payoff for this kind of service would be millions of dollars saved in social services down the road.
“This organization catches what schools can’t afford to do anymore,” she said.
The SGB Youth Literacy Council offers one-on-one tutoring for literacy and elementary math. Jones said that service is available for young children under five years old from the Early Years programs, as well as for adults after high school, but there is no support for school-aged children.
“It is believed these needs are met at school, and most are, but there are still some that aren’t,” Jones said, adding some of their clients don’t fit in with the school system, and are home schooled.
Literacy Council volunteer Mike Norris can attest to that. He spoke of a youth, who when he first met him was unkempt and withdrawn. He couldn’t read well, and was out of school doing lessons through correspondence. With help through the Literacy Council, Norris said, he has been able to get seven high school credits, got his driver’s licence, and is more respectful of other people.
“This boy is a success story. This organization showed him that there’s someone who cares, and there’s somewhere to go. If he went down the tubes, he’s not the only one who would suffer,” said Norris.
Jones agreed, saying that one person’s illiteracy affects not only themselves, but also their family and the whole community.
“Low literacy perpetuates the cycle of poverty,” she said, adding 40 per cent of Canadian adults have literacy skills below the level required for successful high school completion and college entry.
“Because of these realities, it is even more important that we provide our children and youth with the assistance in reading and math that will bring them up to grade level, opening doors, raising self-esteem and leading to a brighter future for our youth,” she said.
The South Grey Bruce Youth Literacy Council gets no government funding. They are 100 per cent charitably run. They serve children from Kincardine to Dundalk.
“The Youth Literacy Council is seeking donors willing to pledge to keep the doors open, to keep children reading, to poverty-proof our community through education,” she said.
Income tax receipts will be given for monetary donations. Call Linette Jones at 519-364-0008 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.