Nonprofits unite for gala to fund reading programs

Mar. 06, 2014 @ 06:12 PM

Two Lee County nonprofits focused on early childhood education are joining together with hopes of wishing many locals "bon voyage" after their upcoming fundraiser, Anchors Aweigh for Literacy.

Many people might get a lesson in literacy just from the name of the program — yes, it is anchors aweigh and not anchors away — but the Partnership for Children and the Coalition for Families have bigger goals than just teaching people a single nautical-themed phrase.

So on March 21, the two groups are inviting the community to a gala and dinner that will raise money for literacy programs they either want to expand or create. The gala starts at 6 p.m. at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center.

"We certainly encourage people to come out and support us," said Lyn Hankins, executive director of the Partnership for Children. "Being able to read is, of course, very important for any child, and those first years are especially important."

Her organization focuses on children from birth to age 5 and works with local Pre-K and childcare providers. The Coalition for Families, which is led by Carolyn Spivey, works to prevent teen pregnancy and also works with parents — particularly young parents or low-income parents — to teach them how to raise their child well and provide the best quality of life possible.

The fundraiser will support coalition programs Raising a Reader and Parents as Teachers, and partnership programs including the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.

Through Dolly Parton's foundation, the Partnership for Children distributes one book a month to children up to age 5 — about 1,000 children in Lee County have signed up, Hankins said, meaning they give out about 12,000 books every year. The program is free for families, but the Partnership still has to buy the books, albeit at a discounted price.

Funding that program is her first priority, Hankins said, and she also wants to help local childcare centers either update their educational materials or help staff pay for professional development activities. Her group has also applied for a Reach Out and Read grant, Hankins said, and if they get that, the fundraiser could go toward helping expand the program — which gives books to pediatricians' offices for kids to read while they're waiting.

As for the coalition, Spivey said through the Parents as Teachers program, her staff conducts home visits to help new parents understand how important it is for them to read to their children when they're little (and encourage them to read on their own once they get older). They also use that program to distribute hundreds of books each year at the Lee Regional Fair.

And through Raising a Reader, she said, the Coalition works with Pre-K and childcare providers to give children a steady supply of books until they reach turn 5, at which time the Coalition helps sign them up for their own library card.

"It's teaching children the joy of reading and getting them in the habit of reading," Spivey said. "Each child gets a bookbag to take home with them with five books in it every week. So they take those home, and at the end of the week, they get five new books."

Anchors Aweigh is the first joint fundraiser the two nonprofits have done together, although they united for Books at a Steal, the used book store on Steele Street, from which they split profits.

"That was so successful, and our literacy missions are similar, so we knew we could work together," Spivey said, adding that she also has high hopes for the gala later this month. Tickets are available at either group's office in downtown Sanford, and people can also buy tickets, which are $35 in advance, by contacting Spivey at (919) 774-8144 (x 201) or Tickets will also be available for $40 at the door the night of the event.

Spivey said everyone who comes will get an individualized number to use during the auction, so they don't have to put their names down for anything. There will be music at the gala, as well as dinner, desserts and drinks.

The groups have been posting the items up for auction on the "Anchors Aweigh for Literacy" Facebook page; some notable ones include trading cards and other sports memorabilia, signed books, collectibles dolls and plates, champagne glasses which might also contain diamonds and pearls, a prom package for two couples and art donated by local artists, including oil paintings and even one painting done with coffee instead of paint.

True to the Anchors Aweigh theme, there are also a number of travel packages ranging from a Caribbean Cruise to three nights in Las Vegas and other trips to Myrtle Beach, Jackson Hole and a mountaintop cabin near Boone.


WHAT: Anchors Aweigh for Literacy, A benefit auction fundraiser for the Coalition for Families and the Lee County Partnership for Children

WHEN: March 21 at 6 p.m.

WHERE: The Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center, 1801 Nash St., Sanford

COST: Tickets are $35 in advance, $40 at the door