About Us

The Virginia Literacy Foundation (VLF) provides funding and technical support to private, volunteer literacy organizations throughout Virginia via challenge grants, training, and direct consultation. Our community-based literacy organizations teach adults who read at or below basic literacy levels with one-on-one instruction and small group tutoring. The VLF also works in partnership with public and private organizations to improve literacy with individuals and in the workplace, and to provide professional development training and research-based promising practices for programs and staff.


Meet the Founder

Jeannie McPherson Patterson Baliles was born in North Carolina and raised near Baltimore. She took her undergraduate and graduate degrees in history from Washington College and Wesleyan University. She taught history until the birth of her first child, and then stayed home to raise her children, Laura and Jonathan. When she became First Lady of Virginia in 1986, she immediately named fighting illiteracy as a major project she would undertake. That same year, she oversaw the founding of the Virginia Literacy Foundation and has served as its chair ever since.

It was Jeannie’s vision to create a public-private partnership that would oversee and prevent overlapping services among all community-based literacy organizations throughout the state. The Foundation also partnered with the State Department of Education in the Virginia Literacy Initiative to encourage the spread of family and workplace literacy programs in the commonwealth. This model was unprecedented in the nation, and 37 years later, she is still the active chair of the organization, which has seen the community-based literacy organizations it supports flourish, along with the adults and families they have served and the communities in which they operate.

A year after its inception in 1986, the VLF formed a partnership with the State Department of Education’s Office of Adult Education and Literacy in a public/private partnership that was the first of its kind in the nation. This joint venture was created in an effort to make an impact on the immense economic, educational, and social consequences of illiteracy to Virginians who are expected to compete in a rapidly changing technological environment.

The Foundation has spent nearly thirty-seven years building and sustaining a statewide network of community-based literacy organizations. The next twenty-five years will be devoted to strengthening the capacity of these organizations and underpinning their successes with public policy support.