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A Letter from Jeannie Baliles

Photo: Jeannie Baliles

Dear Friends:

It is with great pride and satisfaction that I write this letter. Twenty years ago, my colleagues and I created the Virginia Literacy Foundation. Our mission was to support the community-based literacy organizations that struggled to keep their doors open. In 1987, the year the Foundation issued its first grants, there were 34 programs serving about 1400 clients throughout the Commonwealth. Since then, the Foundation has dispersed millions of dollars to such programs through yearly challenge grants. These funds pay operating costs, purchase equipment and technology, and stock classrooms with books and teaching supplies. In short, they provide undereducated adults with the opportunity to improve their lives, better provide for their families, and enrich their communities. In addition to these grants, the Foundation provides direct technical assistance to the programs, assisting them with everything from tutor training to strategic planning. I am pleased to tell you that today there are 140 community-based literacy organizations serving over 14,000 adult learners in Virginia. But the fact is, we're only scratching the surface of the illiteracy problem.

The Virginia Literacy Foundation is the longest-tenured organization of its kind in the country. No other such organization in the United States receives the degree of public and private support we enjoy. No other benefits from a comparable level of community, business, and governmental partnership and cooperation. No other garners the widespread volunteerism upon which the Foundation relies. In our twenty years, we have helped to build a network of nearly 15,000 volunteer teachers and tutors. We have built this infrastructure by ensuring that the majority of the financial support we receive is distributed directly to the local organizations that serve our adult learners so tirelessly. I hope that you will join me in supporting their work. The Foundation has exciting plans for the future, and we would like for you to be a part of them.

Last year, we partnered with Virginia Commonwealth University's School of Education and Center for Public Policy to form The Literacy Institute, because we recognized that service was simply not enough. If adult education as a field is to survive, we must affect public policy. Our vision for the Institute is to provide sound research in adult education that will not only shape educational practice, but also inform and influence legislation. To do so is critical if we are to continue to move forward. But we cannot do it alone.

The Foundation has spent twenty years building a statewide network of community-based literacy organizations. We plan to spend the next twenty increasing the capacity of those programs and providing them with research-based best practices. With your help, we will be able to continue issuing program-sustaining grants, harnessing the power of volunteerism, and improving lives through education. Whether it is with a donation, volunteering, or organizing adult education classes in your workplace, I hope that you will join all of us who are striving to improve the quality of life for all Virginians.

Signature: Jeannie Baliles
Jeannie P. Baliles

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