Dear Friends of Literacy for Life,
The time has come for us to expand our services more fully into the Lower Peninsula. I am writing to explain the circumstances and vision behind this significant development.
Last week, Peninsula READS, a community-based literacy organization that had served Newport News and Hampton since 1968, was forced to close its doors. Their absence means that for the 31,000 residents of Newport News and Hampton who would qualify for our services, there is currently no community-based literacy organization physically located where they live and work. Prior to the unexpected closing of Peninsula READS, Literacy for Life had already begun serving a limited number of individuals on the Lower Peninsula. Those learners came to us primarily through partnerships with Common Catholic Charities' Office of Refugee Resettlement and the Peninsula Regional Education Program (PREP). Also, following the development of our virtual programming over the past three years, we had begun enrolling residents of the Lower Peninsula into our classes and tutoring, with the caveat that they had travel to our office in Williamsburg for enrollment and assessment. Continued expansion into the Lower Peninsula was already a goal of Literacy for Life's three-year strategic plan. With the closing of Peninsula READS, however, we recognize the need to expedite those plans. More immediately, we have taken steps to provide continuity of services for Peninsula READS' current learners and tutors. Several partners have graciously stepped up to enable us to serve and support the approximately 250 learners and 75 volunteer tutors served by Peninsula READS' program annually. Among those partners are the United Way of the Virginia Peninsula, PREP, and the Han Zhang and Jinlan Liu Foundation. We have already hired Peninsula READS’ talented and dedicated program staff: Program Manager Casey Guditus (who launched her adult literacy career as a Literacy for Life tutor), and Program Support Specialist Rebecca Andrews. PREP is providing us with temporary office space at the Adult and Alternative Learning Center in Hampton, and we will immediately begin onboarding Peninsula READS’ existing learners and tutors in an effort to provide them with continuity of services. While we are excited for the opportunity to meet the needs of adult learners across Virginia’s Peninsula—and are motivated by the gravity of the challenge—we recognize that these efforts will require significant support from friends and partners across the region. Because you have been a friend of our work, I'm asking you to consider what you can do to help us build a sustainable presence in this new location that will meet the needs of adult learners for years to come. Please reach out to me if you have questions or would like more information. Sincerely,
Jason C. Thornton Executive Director Literacy for Life