LAURINBURG — At the end of this month, the Scotland County Literacy Council will celebrate four decades of helping people obtain basic reading and math skills.
The 40th anniversary will be recognized with an open house on Sept. 29 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Sanford House where the organization is housed. The Sanford House is located at 213 McLaurin Ave.
The open house, which will include a business mixer, is sponsored by the Laurinburg-Scotland County Area Chamber of Commerce. There will be videos depicting the history of the literacy council shown during the event.
As part of the celebration, the council is looking for anyone with a past association with the organization. That includes tutors, directors, board members, students, volunteers and donors. The organization is also conducting a fundraising campaign during September with “Dollars 4 Literacy” donation boxes placed throughout Scotland County.
The literacy council was established in 1976 to help adults and teens master basic reading and math skills to pursue employment, education or simply personal goals.
“There is an old saying about falling through the cracks, the literacy council is here to fill the cracks and help educate residents who need assistance the best we can,” said Jamie Adams, Scotland County Literacy Council director.
Laurinburg Mayor Matthew Block provided literacy officials with an early birthday gift last week by declaring September as Literacy Month. Block said about 29 percent of adults in Scotland County experience literacy issues “that severely impact their lives and families, their ability to work productively and their participation as citizens and residents of our county.”
“The need for a highly literate citizenry increases as North Carolina moves toward an increasingly technological future,” he said. “I urge my fellow citizens to become invested in making the eradication of illiteracy in our city a reality.”
“For businesses to come into Scotland County, there needs to be a literate population,” she said.
Block was joined at the proclamation signing by Adams, program coordinator Carolyn McNeil, board chairman Betty Barrett and board member Lynn Massey. Also serving on the council’s board of directors are Becky Hoover, Juanita Raber, Al Smith and Jeremy Baker.
Before serving on the board of directors, Barrett volunteered as a reading tutor. In fact, the former teacher has served as a tutor with the group long before it moved into the Sanford House that was donated by the family of the late Terry Sanford, a former North Carolina governor and Laurinburg native.
“I’ve been here for years and years,” she said with a laugh.
Barrett said the problem of illiteracy has also been with the county for years.
“The need is about the same as when I started,” Barrett said. “It is still a problem that needs to be discussed. If we face this thing head on and do something about, I think we will be better off than if we try to hide the facts.”
Barrett said she is not sure she became a tutor other that she comes from “a family of problem solvers.”
“I had the ability to help people with reading so why not do that?” she said. “It could have been Red Cross or some other group but why help tutor you have the skills. There is great satisfaction in helping someone.”
One of those people helped by Barrett is Prentis Campbell who left school as a teenager, but came to the council to gain his GED. He is now able to read words and signs that he could not before.
He said Barrett had showed him a 98-year-old man on the Internet who had gotten a GED.
“He couldn’t read because he was working on the farm and stuff,” Campbell said. “If he can do it, I can do it.”
Barrett said the agency provides more than reading help.
“Sometimes we have people wishing to get into the military that need to improve their math skills,” she said. “We also have tutors for those needing English as a second language. The service can help people get or keep a job, but it is also a way to help people improve their quality of life.”
This year, the council also held a summer children’s program for two weeks in June for 3-5 year olds; two weeks in July for 6-8 year olds; and two weeks in August for 9-12 year olds.
In addition, SCLC held its first ever “edible book fundraiser” at the Storytelling and Arts Center, to raise money while challenging book lovers to design foods with a literary theme.
The center has also started an elementary homework service program.
“We have already seen a few students utilize the service this early into the school you. We envision the number will increase after the first report cards come out.”
Reach Scott Witten at 910-506-3023