Menlo Park nonprofit supports Project Read


A new nonprofit has been formed to support adult literacy in the Menlo Park area -- a timely development, given the state funding cutbacks that are certain to be felt by libraries and literacy programs across California.

Literacy Partners will focus on fundraising for Project Read-Menlo Park, which has helped more than 2,000 adults learn English language skills such as reading and writing since its 1985 founding.

Project Read is administered and funded, in part, by the city of Menlo Park -- a funding source that may diminish as the city is forced to make ever deeper cuts in its services to balance its budget. But it also receives funding from the state through its California Library Literacy Services division, which is bracing for major cuts in the next fiscal year.

The new local organization received its nonprofit status late last year. In the group's "infancy stage," Literacy Partners organizers have been working to refine policies and guidelines, and establish connections with key people, such as the Menlo Park Library director, and other library support groups such as Friends of the Menlo Park Library, according to Kristi Breisch, the group's chairperson.

Over the last six years, volunteer supporters of Project Read-Menlo Park, which offers free one-on-one literacy instruction for adults with the help of volunteer tutors, have poured considerable energy into bolstering the program's efforts to advance literacy, and, in the face of increasingly shaky funding sources, its fundraising capabilities. A major step was the formation in 2005 of an advisory board, which gradually realized that a nonprofit group was needed to support Project Read.

Before Literacy Partners received its legal nonprofit status, Project Read sponsored several fundraisers, most notably the annual "Taste Desserts" event in September, under the umbrella sponsorship of the nonprofit Friends of the Menlo Park Library. But the Advisory Board determined that by creating a nonprofit focused exclusively on Project Read's literacy programs, volunteer supporters of the program would have more control over funds raised for Project Read.

Ms. Breisch noted that Literacy Partners will work to raise funds not only from within the community, but through grants from foundations and other sources.

In addition to boosting funding to maintain Project Read services, which includes a popular "Families for Literacy" program, Literacy Partners organizers hope to raise enough money to augment Project Read support staff. Currently, Project Read's paid staff hours total fewer than 80 hours a week -- to run a program that trains and supports about 100 volunteer tutors for about 110 students, among a number of other duties.

In the near future, Literacy Partners will have information online about its goals, its work, and how to get involved, Ms. Breisch said.

Go to Project Read to learn more about Project Read-Menlo Park. The names of new nonprofit's board members can be found by going to the Literacy Partners Board link in the right-hand column of the home page.

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