January 2, 2012

Literacy advocates get boost

Donation will help Literacy Volunteers purchase new books

by Lindsey Ziliak

— Week after week, volunteers teach local adults how to read using books that are tattered and old — some of them 30 years old.

Leaders of the Literacy Volunteers of Cass County said they were afraid to splurge on new books for their library because they were worried there wouldn’t be enough money left to cover everyday expenses.

A generous gift from a mystery donor, though, will allow the organization to update its library.

Someone made an anonymous donation totaling $2,142.

This marks the second time in recent weeks that a mystery donor made a sizable contribution to a local group. A few weeks before Christmas, someone gave more than $4,000 to buy instruments for needy students at Logansport High School.

Nancy Taylor, president of the Literacy Volunteers of Cass County, said there weren’t words to describe how much the mystery gift meant to her.

“This came out of the blue,” she said. “I was speechless. This has never happened to us. People don’t usually think about literacy much.”

She said literacy isn’t one of the most popular causes to support, mainly because people don’t know it’s a problem locally.

“There are a lot of people here who can’t read,” Taylor said.

She said one man used to come to her every week looking for help to fill out his checks.

He couldn’t read or write, so he would bring a blank check to her, and she filled in the blanks.

Taylor said the organization’s volunteer tutors work hard to teach people like him how to read, but their teaching materials are outdated.

The library of books that tutors and students can check out is small, and the books are starting to fall apart, Taylor said.

And the group doesn’t have enough GED study books. The group has one book in Spanish and one or two in English, Taylor said, and those are always checked out. There’s always a wait to get one, she said.

But the group never had the funds to buy more.

“Books are so expensive,” Taylor said. “They’re like $25 or $30 each.”

The group works on a shoestring budget, and there’s never any breathing room, Taylor said.

Now members can breathe a sigh of relief. Taylor said the gift will allow the organization to buy many new books without having to worry.

Taylor said she just wishes she knew who the donor was. In a letter to the Pharos-Tribune, she sent a message to whoever is behind the gift.

“Although ‘thank you’ hardly seems enough to show our appreciation, I do offer our sincere thanks, and assure you that we will use this gift to help those adult students who have placed their future in our hands,” she wrote.

• Lindsey Ziliak is a staff writer at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5148 or