It would have been dead easy to give up on Literacy Victoria. Ditto for the READ Society.
Both were volunteer-driven outfits, and volunteers want fulfilment, not the headache of keeping a drowning charity afloat.
In fact, Literacy Victoria did go under for a while, shutting its doors in 2014.
“It would have been so easy to stay closed,” says Susan Reece, a volunteer tutor who ended up chairing the group’s board.
But then the impact of the loss began to be felt. How were all those adults who struggle with reading, writing and numeracy supposed to overcome their hurdles? “We had so many people who were upset that it had closed after all those years.”
So Reece and a few others spent a few months huddled around a kitchen table figuring out how to reopen the doors, which they were able to do in 2015. Then, last year, Reece got to talking with Charlie Etchell of the READ Society, a youth-focused literacy group that had emerged from its own near-death experience.
The result was September’s merger of the two non-profits, now known as the Victoria Literacy Connection. It’s a leaned-down organization that helps both children and adults, teaching them skills without which they would be left behind in life.
It’s volunteer-driven — Etchell is a former school district administrator while his co-chair, Reece, retired to Victoria after a decade running the international division of Oxford University Press — but there’s still a budget that will always be a challenge to cover.
That’s why the new group was happy to see the $15,000 grant it just received from the Times Colonist Book Drive.
In fact, more than 160 literacy-related organizations on Vancouver Island — mostly schools — just got cheques totalling $272,000 as a result of last year’s book sale.
We’re approaching a landmark, the 20th straight year the sale has been held. Since the first event in 1998, the people who volunteer for, donate to and shop at the book sale have allowed $4.7 million — including $1.8 million in matching funds from the provincial government — to be distributed among schools and non-profits doing literacy-related work on the Island.
Which brings us to today’s message: Once again, we’re asking you to donate your books (and your backs) to the cause.
By now, you know how it goes: Readers donate good-quality used books, which volunteers sort for resale to the public. As has been the case since 2010, both the book collection and book sale will be held at the Victoria Curling Club at 1952 Quadra St.
The sale will take place Saturday, May 6, and Sunday, May 7, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.
The drive-through book drop-off will be two weeks earlier, Saturday, April 22, and Sunday, April 23, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. If you want to donate, please pack books in boxes or bags that you don’t want back. No encyclopedias, textbooks, magazines, medical books, outdated reference works, Reader’s Digest condensed books or National Geographics, please.
It would be greatly appreciated if the boxes were small enough to be lifted by the dissolute desk jockeys who toil for the TC.
It would be even more appreciated if some relatively healthy people (and, frankly, the bar isn’t that high) were to share the load. We’re looking for help with the heavy lifting on the weekend of the drop-off. (At the Times Colonist, anything weightier than a can of Lucky constitutes “heavy lifting.”)
In truth, most of those who show up to help have little to do with the newspaper. Just like the Victoria Literacy Connection, the book drive is driven by a terrific group of community-minded volunteers. After 20 years, many are getting on, though.
So, if you feel like a couple of hours of back-breaking unpaid labour in what you hope is April sunshine, please contact the Times Colonist’s Bruce Cousins at email@example.com.
Volunteering isn’t always easy, but it’s usually worth it in the end.