In the midst of a pandemic, Literacy Partners – Menlo Park transformed a 10-year-old library-based nonprofit’s mission to now serve a greater number of local residents of all age groups.
On Dec. 2, Literacy Partners made its first grant, giving up to $50,000 to StreetCode’s Level Up digital educational effort in Belle Haven and surrounding communities.
The board of directors of Literacy Partners – Menlo Park (LPMP), formerly known as Project Read – Literacy Partners, adopted new bylaws in May to be able to support worthy organizations beyond its previous mission restricted to library-based adult and family literacy. In 2018, the city of Menlo Park doubled its annual support to Project Read to $110,000, enabling LPMP, a 501(c)(3), to identify projects to fund throughout the broader Menlo Park community.
Andrew Morcos, a senior development director for Greystar who became LPMP’s secretary last January, said that Level Up provides laptops as free rentals to individuals for education. In thanking Literacy Partners, Olatunde Sobomehin, StreetCode’s CEO, said the grant will be targeted to hire a course creator who, with the help of Stanford interns, will coach students on how to use their new laptops.
In February, the original Project Read – Literacy Partner board had approved a $40,000 grant to the Menlo Park Library to construct two soundproof-booths in the main library for small meetings, including privacy for tutoring pairs, and to provide 10 laptops for use by tutor-learner pairs in library programs. Although the pandemic has temporarily delayed construction of the cubicles, LPMP remains committed to fund this proposal and to consider new grants for city-sponsored literacy projects when requested.
Board members and officers of LPMP are excited about the new mission to expand literacy and are actively vetting new opportunities. In October, John Schniedwind, a retired investment executive from American Century Investments, joined LPMP as treasurer. He said LPMP matches his interest in mixing local philanthropy, hands-on volunteering — including tutoring with the Project Read program — and international involvement as volunteer treasurer of a rural health program in Uganda.
“I’m enthusiastic about having a cockpit seat in the expanded work of LPMP in our community that’s being made possible by the generosity of a surprisingly broad, diverse and active group of neighbors. Rather than talking about innovations, I feel gratified to be part of creative solutions, including Level Up,” he said.
Other current board members include Tiffany Hayes, associate director of development, institutional partnerships, at Samaritan House of San Mateo County and LPMP’s vice president of donor relations; Leticia Garcia, a longtime Silicon Valley project management executive and LPMP’s vice president of social outreach; and President Mike Goodkind.
During 2020, generous contributors have already provided nearly $75,000 to support literacy through LPMP. Grants are of all sizes, including smaller contributions from recent English language learners in programs LPMP supports, as well as $14,000 from the 2019 Almanac Holiday Fund.
While all community contributions are highly valued, a grant in October stands out. LPMP received nearly $50,000 from the estate of the late Karen Marie Lundberg, a lifelong educator who had worked at virtually all levels of education, including college teaching. Lundberg crossed paths with Menlo Park literacy programs through her service at JobTrain and Sequoia Adult School and as a manager at Kepler’s Books, where for many years Literacy Partners held a gift-wrapping holiday fundraiser. Before becoming a beloved and dedicated educator she had worked and enjoyed life as a blackjack dealer, a scuba diver, florist, and she held a pilot’s license. She died Jan. 6 at the age of 72.