Three local agencies were awarded a total of $93,400 from the Community Foundation of Boone County Friday, March 2, in an effort to raise the county’s literacy level.
The nearly $100,000 check was presented to the Lebanon Public Library, the Arc of Boone County, and Indianapolis-based Indy Reads Friday at the community foundation in Zionsville.
“This is a great opportunity for Boone County,” said Indiana Supreme Court Justice Steve David, president of the foundation’s board. “We’re very pleased to be able to do something entirely different and fund three different ventures, adventures.”
This grant process was unique, David said, because the foundation board came together to brainstorm about what it could do to impact literacy in the county. Instead of reviewing grant requests, it asked organizations to submit requests.
And instead of awarding just one, it selected all three.
“And we can impose obligations of collaboration,” David said. “We’re bringing together the best that they all have. And the result is something much better than if we chose any one of them.”
Mike Caldwell, foundation executive director, said he hopes to look back on this a year from now and see a reason to continue to fund the initiative.
“My hope is you have such a powerful story and results to back it up that we need to continue funding it,” he said to the agency’s representatives who gathered Friday morning for the meeting. “Our main goal is to raise literacy rates here, and I feel like you are three great partners.”
M. Travis DiNicola, executive director of Indy Reads, said he will be hiring a part-time employee to work in Boone County — the first venture out of Marion County for the organization. He has already been advertising for the position, and said he’s had many qualified applicants.
“Indy Reads is thrilled to be able to bring this to Boone, and it’s so innovative on behalf of the community foundation,” DiNicola said. “We’re looking forward to this so much. I think we have an exciting year ahead of us.”
Marcia Clutter of Arc said they will be developing a new pre-GED program for those people who struggle with current GED programs because their literacy level is not high enough to handle it. It will be for people Arc serves, but will also be open to the public. The next step is to hire a board-certified instructor and an assistant, she said.
“This has been on our wish list for many years,” she said. “It’s going to be a great advancement. Nothing like this has been offered before.”
Kay Martin, director of the Lebanon Public Library, said the money will enhance the youth literacy programs it already has in place — from pre-school to teen — and will also be used to help develop some new young-adult programs.
“It will not only help with continuing literacy but to keep the love of reading alive,” she said. “We’re going to add things we haven’t been able to in the past because we didn’t have the budget. It will make everything we do better.”
Jane Myers, library board member, said she is excited to work with Indy Reads for the first time.
“To have a partner like them is wonderful,” she said. “It’s great to see this fluidity with all the literacy programs. It will encourage partnerships to use all our expertise and people. It will all come together.”
The staff of the community foundation will continue to be involved, David said. They will receive updates on the work the organizations are doing.
“Don’t be afraid to try something different; the goal is for you to run with it,” he said at the meeting. “We want this to be a model program, trying to give people more of an opportunity to succeed.”