Thursday, August 6, 2009

Pessimistic Thinking - Why It Drags Some Down and Not Others

This will be my last post as I will be leaving LIFT for another non profit. I have enjoyed blogging about literacy issues and LIFT for the past few months. Keep your eyes on the LIFT Blog for new items from someone new. I leave you this -

The Program Staff at LIFT thought it might be helpful to have this link for information about "Learned Helplesness" - an article about how some people are able to overcome pessimistic thinking. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Ultimate Gift

Admit it - you like to see your name in print. Whether in a program, a list of supporters, even in the phone book (if you keep one around the house) and if you are REALLY honest, you have googled yourself at least once!

LIFT is going to offer to one lucky bidder the opportunity to see their name in print, courtesy of Deborah Crombie, world reknowned mystery author and keynote speaker for the 2009 Champions of Literacy Luncheon. Ms. Crombie has graciously agreed to allow LIFT to auction off a character name in her next novel (which by my count should be book #14.) Just think, you might be the dashing spy or whimsical aristocrat in the next Duncan Kincaid/Emma James novel. Talk about the perfect gift for the person who has everything!

The luncheon date is Thursday September 17, 2009, noon, at the Frontiers of Flight Museum, 6911 Lemmon Avenue (near Love Field). Gloria Campos of WFAA-TV is returning again as our Mistress of Ceremonies. Individual tickets are $95 each and can be purchased at the LIFT website or by calling 214.824.2000, ext 230. You will NOT want to miss this event and this thrilling live auction treat! Purchase your luncheon ticket today and come prepared for a bidding war!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Latest LIFT Stats

It is hot out, but hey it is summer in Texas. Despite the heat, things are moving along at LIFT. Just out - our newest stats - pretty impressive. LIFT is still reaching out to record numbers of adult learners in Dallas, Tarrant and Collin counties.

From July 1, 2008 - June 30, 2009 LIFT served 8, 325 adult learners. The only other group that teaches more adults to read than LIFT in North Texas is the DISD. Most literacy organizations in the US average serving 300 adult learners a year. So, how do LIFT stats drill down?
  • 31% (2,550) participated in Family Literacy Workshops. When you take into consideration that each parent participating averages 2.5 children, approximately 6,375 were reached by this program.
  • 18% are enrolled in Adult Literacy classes. 20% of this group read below the 2nd grade level, 50% read between the 2nd and the 4th grade level and 30% read above the 4th grade level.
  • 51% (4,296) participated in ESL classes.

During this time frame, 8,070 classes met for 121,182 class hours (including 1,507 computer lab hours). LIFT still maintains a 64% course completion rate among its adult learners, compared to the national average of 10%.

So how does LIFT manage to serve so many adult learners in a year? First thing that comes to my mind is determination and the passion to fulfill the mission of raising adult literacy rates in Texas. LIFT manages these goals with a staff of 9 full time employees.

Many literacy programs employ the one on one tutoring method. For many reasons, LIFT chooses to employ the classroom method. If we are one on one and you are the tutor and I am the adult learner, when do I get to be the smart one? Never - but in a classroom setting, Sam helps Marcia, Marcia can help Greg and so forth. Confidence is built, lessons are reinforced when adult learners help each other. A bond is built between our adult learners and there is an accountability factor. When an adult learner misses a class, his/her classmates notice. Sometimes they even call and urge that adult learner to return to class. A community is built and the community is committed to making sure its members succeed.

Next post we will explore why we think LIFT has such a great retention rate among its adult learners.

Monday, July 6, 2009

LIFT Wins Diversity Award

LIFT was recently named a winner of the Fourth Annual Celebration of Diversity Award last week. The award, given by Ernst & Young LLP and the Dallas Arboretum recognizes individuals, corporations and nonprofit organizations that lead the way in creating inclusive environments.

Finalists in the nonprofit organization category included: Bridge Breast Network, Dallas iMedia, Greenhill Schoool, Kids Net Foundation (Jonathan's Place), LIFT, Methodist Health System and The Family Place. You can see LIFT was in very good company.

Those of us who work and volunteer at LIFT have always known we are doing a good job. It is delightful when the community at large recognizes that work.

Thank you to all the staff and volunteers who made it possible for LIFT to receive this prestigious award.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Bank of Texas, Half Price Books and LIFT

I mentioned in a previous post that Bank of Texas was conducting their annual "Caring for Kids" drive during the month of June and is donating the books to LIFT. This morning I met Danielle Workin, Marketing and Community Relations Coordinator at Bank of Texas, at Half Price Books and we loaded up more than 1,000 children's books donated by our good friends at Half Price Books. That is in addition to the 1,000 books another LIFT staff member, Rudy Murillo, picked up at Half Price Books yesterday. Yowzah! And this doesn't even count the books that are being donated at all Bank of Texas branches. The branch collecting the most books will be treated to an ice cream and brownie party (using my very special and popular recipes! - yes, these are the brownies that bring Jody Dean and the morning team at KLUV to their knees)

The generosity of Bank of Texas and Half Price Books ensures that the LIFT Family Literacy Workshops will be able to continue. The donated books will be used in the workshops where parents are taught how to read to their children. Then each child whose parent(s) participate in the program are allowed to choose a book to take with them. For many of these children, this is the very first book that belongs to them. Can you imagine being five years old and never having even one book that is your own? Thank you Bank of Texas and Half Price Books for helping make a generation of readers. As Emilie Buchwald said, “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.”

P.S. Pictured in the photo, left to right are Half Price Books Donations Assistant Mgr Cesar Gonzalez; Danielle Workins Marketing & Community Relations Coordinator Bank of Texas; Leslie Clay Director of Community Development, LIFT; Half Price Books Donations Mgr Scott Ward

Monday, June 22, 2009

Student Poetry

Best selling author and former non-reader, John Corcoran, pointed out that once non readers learn to read, the desire to write poetry bubbles to the surface. Below are examples of poetry written by our Voyager (4th - 5th grade reading level) adult learners. The poems followed an exact format using their names and information about themselves. Enjoy!

Fun, nice, hardworking, friendly
Son of Mary and Tom
Brother of Herbert, Joan, Robbie Ray
Who feels glad to be in class
Who likes to learn to readna dwrite better
Who needs help to read and write better and get my GED
Who lives in Dallas, Texas

Sweet, kind, loving, dignified
Daughter of Lisa Stuart
Sister of Mary Smith
Who feels good
Who likes eggs and toast
Who needs church and money
Who lives in Irving, Texas

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Few Words Says It All

"I want to learn to read and write so I can send my wife an e-mail and tell her how much I love her."

That is the goal of a LIFT adult learner. No other words needed.

Monday, June 15, 2009


What can you do to encourage your volunteers and supporters to donate when they feel like they can't write you a check? LIFT encourages our friends and partners to use Goodsearch and Goodshop.

Goodsearch is a search engine that will donate $.01 to your designated charity. All you have to do is visit the website and choose Literacy Instruction for Texas as the charity you "search for". Then every time you use Goodsearch as your search engine, LIFT receives $.01 per search.

Goodshop operates on the same principle, but is used for online shopping. Instead of going straight to the online shopping website of your choice, go through It only takes 2-3 more seconds and the retailers will donate a portion of your purchase, which can run from 1% to 6%, to the charity you "shop for". I call this no impact fundraising. It costs the donor nothing, but can mean a great deal to the charity.

What could you do for LIFT if you used Goodsearch as your exclusive search engine? Check it out!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bank of Texas Book Drive

If you are a Bank of Texas customer or even if you are not, drop by any Bank of Texas branch during the month of June and donate a children's book to their "Caring for Kids" book drive. This year Bank of Texas has chosen the Family Literacy Workshops at LIFT as the recipients of the book drive.

Parents in the LIFT Family Literacy Workshops learn how to read to their children. Children whose parents participate in the program are allowed to choose a book of their very own from donated books. For many of these children, the book they choose is the very first book they have ever received.

A parent is a child's first and best teacher. Thank you Bank of Texas for getting our children off to a good start by encouraging literacy in the home.

Monday, June 8, 2009

LIFT Day Manager Receives Accolades

Tomorrow night, LIFT Day Manager, Melissa Gray is being honored by the Roy Stanley Masonic Lodge here in Dallas for her work on behalf of LIFT adult learners. Each new leaner to LIFT meets one on one with Melissa for their initial assessment which determines which class they will enter. Melissa exhibits such grace and patience under fire. In addition to meeting with every new student that walks through the doors here at the Main Street Site, Melissa keeps everything humming smoothly along in the Main Street site. She keeps adult learners and volunteers informed of any closings, changes in policies and needs. Most of all, she is the ultimate cheerleader for LIFT's adult learners and many of these people have not had a cheerleader in their life. She encourages the learners, urges them to try just once more and celebrates their successes. Melissa, hats off to you - you deserve this accolade!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Teaching a Person to Fish/Teaching Someone to Read

The adage that teaching someone to fish will feed them for a lifetime was driven home this week. Our youngest son landed a paying (yay!) internship for the summer, but it is in another city from where he has been renting an apartment for the school year, so the mad scramble was on to find accomodations. I sprang into full "mom" mode and started reaching out to anyone I knew in the city asking if they knew of anyone who might have a garage apartment or extra bedroom for rent. Not much luck, but did find someone who had a friend who had a friend. I was all prepared to relay this information on to our son when an e-mail popped up. He had found someone who was renting a room to students for what he had determined was a pretty decent price. How did he know it was a good price? Because he researched furnished apartments, extended stay hotels and furnished rooms near his new job. He even researched what it would cost him in gas to drive from this rented room and how much time it would probably take him. It hit me - he learned much more by doing his own legwork than if I had just handed him a piece of paper with an address and said "here is where you will be parking for the next two months."

When LIFT adult learners come to us to learn to read, it is the same thing. Learning to read as an adult is hard work. It would be so much easier just to drift along, letting someone else read your important papers or worse, not knowing what you needed to be able to read. So many times the adult learner has tried and failed, but at LIFT we make sure they are successful and when you are successful what do you do? You keep on trying! We learn from doing our own legwork, or in the case at LIFT, from doing your own bookwork.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Endings and Beginnings

I was on vacation last week, hence no blog posts! But I am back now and in full throttle.

Today marks the beginning of the new fiscal year at LIFT and with all new beginnings, you also have a time of reflection. I have been at LIFT a little more than a year, having come on board February 20, 2008. I have had all my firsts - first Volunteer and Donor of Distinction Luncheon - a mere eight days after I started work; first Spelling Bee - two months after coming on board; first Champions of Literacy Luncheon - you get the drift.

I remember when I first started at LIFT we were quoting "6,200 adult learners served". We are now quoting "more than 8,000 adult learners at LIFT". It is common knowledge around here that I am no math wizard and calculating percentages is not my forte. One deciding factor in the college I chose to attend was at that time, I would not have to take any math once I got there. I know for a fact that has all changed! But I digress... even I, the math illiterate, can tell you that is phenomenal growth in the past 12 months, serving 6,200 adults then and more than 8,000 now.

What else has LIFT accomplished this year in addition to serving more adult learners? We launched GED Direct, the only on line, interactive GED preparation course in the entire country geared to a reading level below fifth grade. If you can read at a 9th grade level (and 49% of the adults in Dallas County cannot), you can attend GED prep classes in the DISD or several other places. But what happens if you are in that 49% that reads below a fourth grade level? LIFT is the only game in town. Since launching GED Direct, LIFT has seen a tremendous increase in our upper level classes.

LIFT also implemented a Volunteer Newsletter this past year that goes out to more than 500 active volunteers. It is just one way to keep them informed and connected to LIFT. Our programming staff has also started Round Table Discussions where our volunteers share ideas and best practices. In turn, this information is shared among all the teachers, not just those attending.

LIFT has increased its awareness in the community in several ways. In January we received donated air time for our classes on several radio stations and we could barely field the 1,000+ phone calls we received. We have also had donated ads on the Dallas Bus and DART trains - four times this year alone. LIFT has also started a series of Breakfast Club meetings where we bring different groups in to learn about LIFT. These have proved highly successful. The Dallas Morning News, the Advocate and the Dallas Business Journal have all been wonderful about printing our press releases and giving LIFT much needed publicity.

Donations are down, that is for sure, but we are working smarter and leaner. I look forward to the next fiscal year and the new possibilities it brings. I predict this time next year, I will be reporting to you "more than 9,000 served in the past twelve months". Won't that be exciting? - being part of offering a permanent fix to a lifelong problem - adult illiteracy - to more than 9,000 households! Wow - keep watching!

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Do you know the number reason people do not give to others? No one asks them. Plain and simple - no one asks them. Even though I am in the business of asking others to give, I have never felt very comfortable with the word and concept of "giving". Sounds too much like nothing is required other than forking something over. I prefer to think of it as offering an opportunity - an opportunity to support, an opportunity to achieve, an opportunity to make a difference.

Every day I am humbled by the way people make it possible for LIFT to achieve the goal of teaching adults to read for free. I am always amazed at the way people step up and literally put their money and their time where their mouths are.

Yesterday was the launch of DonorBridge, a new resource for non profit supporters in North Texas. Our supporters and partners were all abuzz about the possibility of LIFT receiving matching funds. When the site was launched at 12:01 a.m. several supporters went online to make their donation and as the day progressed, LIFT friends called to tell me they were making their donations on line. A college friend who lives in Florida e-mailed that she had made a donation. Before 8:00 a.m. Wednesday, LIFT partners were calling me asking if I knew how much in matching funds we might be receiving. DonorBridge generated excitement for LIFT, excitement that is needed in these, shall we say, challenging economic times. People were excited to be part of something. Those of us who stayed up late (and for me, midnight is really late - I am typically asleep even before the evening news broadcast) were attending our own little on line party, complete with texts and phone calls to keep up with our progress.

Several of our donors made DonorBridge gifts to LIFT in addition to their regular, yearly gifts. And all we had to do was ASK! We sent out two e-mails, a postcard mailing and included information in our newsletter. But what probably was the most effective tool was the fact that we shared information about Dallas Giving Day one on one with our volunteers and supporters. We talked to each personally about how the program would work and how they could make a difference. Many of those supporters then forwarded the e-mail to their friends and in the world of six degrees of separation, those friends forwarded it on to other friends. LIFT went viral. In addition to garnering us new donors, DonorBridge gave us the opportunity to remind people why LIFT is here and why the work we do matters.

Goes to show that all you have to do is ask. And you just might be surprised.

Monday, May 18, 2009

DonorBridge is Coming

DonorBridge is a new online resource for non profit supporters in North Texas. Information on area non profits, including LIFT, will be available to supporters at Sort of like a clearinghouse where you can find tax returns, programs, budgets, staffing - anything you might want to know about your favorite non profit or a non profit you might be interested in funding.

In honor of the launch of this new resource, on May 20th, any donations made to your favorite non profit (which I hope is LIFT) online at can be matched dollar for dollar. You want to get your gift in early though - only $200,000 is available for matching funds and with 400 are non profits all vying for this money, it will go early.

In these tough economic times, area non profits have seen funding fall dramatically at a time when more and more people are asking for services. LIFT is no exception. We have seen foundations who have funded us for years unable to fund this year due to a decline in the value of their investments. At the same time LIFT logged over 1,000 phone calls in a two week period in January from people wanting information on our classes.

Even though all LIFT classes are taught by dedicated and fabulous volunteers, it takes money to run these programs. With 8,500 adult learners in a year, the majority of whom ask for homework, you can imagine the amount of paper we run through alone. Then of course you can't have class in the dark - we have to pay the light bill. Not all students can afford a textbook - those are $20. Many of our adult learners cannot afford a bus pass to get to class. If $2 towards a bus pass is all that stands in the way of getting someone to class, then LIFT is going to make that happen.

If you only make one gift to LIFT this year, make it May 20th at and double your impact.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

All Things LIFT

I realized my last post was April 27th - time has a way of getting away from you, especially when things are hopping like they are at LIFT. Today's posting is a conglomeration of all things LIFT.

Tomorrow we have the 3rd Annual Adult Spelling Bee. Corporate teams compete to see who will be named the Stellar Spellers. This year we have nine teams competing. It is a fun event.

May 20th is a very big day for LIFT - that is the launch of DonorBridge, a new online resource for non profit supporters in North Texas. In honor of the occasion, the Dallas Foundation and the Communities Foundation of Texas are matching dollar for dollar, donations made to LIFT on that day at the DonorBridge website, This matching program will be a long needed lifeline for the 400 area non profits who are part of DonorBridge. We all have the opportunity to double our gifts - that is a much better rate of return than the stock market, plus donors know they are truly helping someone make a permanent fix by learning to read. So, I encourage each and every one of you to log on to on May 20th and make your gift or call me, give me your credit card information and I will log it for you. My number at the office is 214.824.2000, ext 230.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Another LIFT Adult Learner Earns GED

LIFT's fabulous programming staff brought to my attention last week that another LIFT adult learner has earned her GED. Since LIFT launched GED Direct in July 2008, we have seen a 12% increase in the number of adult learners who come to use for the upper level (translates to GED preparation) classes. This shows us that GED Direct, an on line interactive GED preparation class geared to lower level adult readers (those who read at the 5th grade level) is just what adult learners are looking for.

LIFT partnered with Aztec Software to develop the software and GED Direct is the only program of its kind in the United States. Other GED prep courses are geared to the adult learner who reads at the 9th grade level. Our adult learners tell us they love the program - most of them leave class here and continue their studies at home for several hours.

At the present time, LIFT offers GED Direct for free to 13 partner agencies and like all our other classes, there is no charge to the adult learner.

Kind of exciting to be on the front lines with new technology that is improving the lives of so many North Texans.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Full of Possibilities

The last couple of days have been absolutely glorious, weather wise, here in North Texas. In spite of the economic downturns we have all been facing, it is easy to forget them for a moment and just enjoy the sunshine and clear skies.

That spirit of possibility bleeds over into the workplace. I am not going to gloss over the current fundraising environment - things are tough for non profits and LIFT is not exempt. Rather than dwell on what we don't have, I am choosing to view this time as the opportunity to discover new funding sources.

And I see hope when I come to work. I see hope on the faces of our adult learners as they wait every morning for the doors to open. I see hope in their posture when they realize "hey - I CAN do this. I CAN learn." I see hope when our oldest student has decided at the age of 76 that she can learn to read. I see hope when our adult learners go on to earn their GED and then enroll in college. I see hope when one of our adult learners tells me he and his granddaughter do their reading homework together and help each other.

Instead of dwelling on what is not, let's dwell on what is and the positive impact LIFT has on its adult learners. These are people who are choosing to enhance their lives and the lives of their families. They are becoming literate and a whole new world of opportunities await them.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Double Gifts to LIFT

On May 20th, you will have the opportunity to double the gift you make to LIFT. On that day, DonorBridge, an on line resource for donors, will launch and to celebrate, Communities Foundation of Texas and The Dallas Foundation, have established the first-ever Dallas Giving Day and will match, dollar-for-dollar, donations given through the DonorBridge website ( These two foundations have earmarked $200,000 to be used for the matching funds, so you want to make your gift early in the day before the matching money runs out.

Non profits that offer services to people (food, shelter, clothing, education) have seen at least a 30% increase in requests for services while at the same time donations are drastically down. That is why Dallas Giving Day is such an important event. A $25 gift becomes a $50 gift when made through

Only a couple of caveats apply:
$25 minimum gift
Must be made through the DonorBridge website at
Maximum matching contribution per individual is $2,500 (but you can donate
as much as you want.)
Matching dollars only available as long as they last on May 20th.

So, donate early, donate often and double your gift to LIFT

Thursday, April 16, 2009

LIFT Has Visitors

This morning at LIFT had some very distinguished visitors, the President of El Centro Community College, Paul McCarthy and Dallas City Council Member Sheffie Kadane. President McCarthy and Councilman Kadane were joined by Sandra McCarthy and Patricia Weidemier for a breakfast meeting and facts about LIFT. We thank all our guests for taking time out of their busy schedules to learn more about LIFT and we appreciate their commitment to helping LIFT raise adult literacy rates in Texas.

Monday, April 13, 2009

LIFT Adult Learner Earns GED

Tonight at LIFT we are having a little party. We are going to celebrate the fact that one of our adult learners has earned his GED.

Ernest could read - a little. After all, he completed school through the eighth grade and could read at a sixth grade level, but Ernest wanted more from his life. He wanted to go to college and to own an electronics business. To achieve these dreams, Ernest knew he would have to learn to read at a much higher level. Ernest turned to LIFT in 2006 to get what he needed to move his life in that direction.

Ernest attended GED classes four nights a week for three years. Imagine - is there anything you do that takes you away from home four nights a week AFTER working a full time job? That you do willingly? That is determination and dedication.

Learning to read garnered Mr. Piper a job promotion. Previously employed as a janitor, he is now trained as a Crisis Hotline Counselor.

Ernest is all set to enter college . Congratulations Ernest. We wish you the best of luck!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Adult Learners

Last Thursday night I have the privelege of attending a graduation for adult learners in LIFT ESL (English as a Second Language) at Aldersgate Methodist Church in Arlington, TX. I have mentioned in earlier posts that I am in awe of our adult learners who persevere learning to read. Now imagine learning to read and speak and write a totally new language as an adult. At the same time you are trying to learn the customs, laws and social norms in a new place. Such is the life of many of the adult learners in LIFT ESL classes.

LIFT operates literacy classes in 39 sites in Dallas, Tarrant and Collin counties. More than 8,000 adult learners will go enroll in classes and more than 60% of the enrollees will complete their course of study (compared to the national average of just 10%). And the majority of LIFT ESL adult learners are illiterate in their native language also. Many of them never attended school in their home countries.

It is hard of us who are literate to imagine not being able to read. You might be tempted to imagine what life is like if you couldn't speak the language by equating it with a trip you take to Spain, France or Germany. But it is much harder than that. If you or I, being literate in our own language, landed in a European country we still might be able to figure out some of the words. At least we would know the alphabet.

Life for the illiterate non English reader would be closer to us being dropped into Japan or China - trying to figure out what these characters are and which way is up.

Food for thought.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Adult Literacy Teacher Tips

A recent Rount Table Discussion at LIFT where staff and volunteer teachers exchanged classroom hints and tips yielded these nuggets for working with adult learners. Please feel free to post any additional suggestions you might have for the classroom on this blog as a comment.

  • Bring a recent article from the newspaper for all to follow along as the teacher reads. This is a good way to show sentences and paragraphs. Reading Workshop classes can circle the letters they are studying in class even though they cannot read the article.

  • Classes that are working daily with goals show greater retention. One class identified themselves as “The Go Getters!”.

  • Class retention improves when students bond and call each other when absent. Consider passing around a sign up list for students to print their first name and phone number. Make copies and share.

  • Welcome each student by name when they arive. Don't scold them if they are late or absent, but always praise them for attendance and being on time. As the old adage goes, you get more flies with sugar than with vinegar.

  • Soon LIFT will have worksheets and suggestions on how to work with students to learn how to tell time. It was suggested that you start with a digital clock.

  • When dealing with page numbers, write the page number on the board and repeat the number, while pointing to the digits, i.e. "fifty four, five four".

  • Practice alphabetizing by having the students alphabetize the spelling words assigned for each lesson

  • When new words are introduced in the Texas Scottish Rite curriculum, identify these words by their parts of speech. After some practice, when new words are introduced, challenge the students to identify the parts of speech for the new words.

Did you know that LIFT computers allow students to record while they read? You can also record your reading, and then let the students record their reading as they practice fluency and fluidity. Details are in your Teacher Notebook.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

North Texas Future Fund Bridge Award

Little late in posting this week - things have been hopping at LIFT.

Exciting news at the LIFT office - we have been selected to receive the Community Advocate Bridge Award presented by the North Texas Future Fund. This award is given to individuals, literacy providers (that's us!), organizations and corporations who have made significant contributions to improving literacy in North Texas.

Rumor has it we were the only organization to receive nominations from three totally different entities. Thank you to those who nominated us. We will receive our award on Tuesday, April 7th at the Renaisance Worthington Hotel in downtown Fort Worth.

As always, we acknowledge that we couldn't have reached more than 8,500 adult learners in the past year without the support of our donors and volunteers. Thank you!

The North Texas Future Fund is a 501(c)3 organization created by the North Texas Commission to identify, study and seek long-term solutions for issues facing the North Texas region affecting education, economic development, workforce development and population change.

The purpose of the North Texas Commission is to enhance and promote the economic vitality and quality of life of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex by providing leadership; acting as the catalyst for regional cooperation; identifying regional problems and issues; and helping create solutions for these problems and issues.The North Texas Commission is a regional non-profit consortium of businesses, cities, counties, chambers of commerce, economic development entities and higher education institutions in the North Texas Region. The Commission is the one and only public-private regional organization committed to enhancing the overall economic vitality and quality of life of North Texas.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Vance C. Miller, Jr. Memorial Golf Tournament

Partnerships are vital to a non profit. Without them we could not exist. We could not serve the people. Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT) has been very fortunate to have the Vance C. Miller Family as a long time partner in our mission to raise adult literacy rates in Texas. Vance and Tincy have long carried the banner for adult literacy on the local, state and national levels. Tincy has served on the LIFT board and on the Texas State Board of Education. They are great friends to LIFT.

For the past twelve years, the Miller Family along with their friends, family and business associates, have hosted the Vance C. Miller, Jr. Memorial Golf Tournament. Proceeds from the event are shared between LIFT and the Vance C. Miller, Jr. Classical Guitar Scholarship atSMU.

This year's tournament is this upcoming Monday, March 30th at Prestonwood Country Club Hills Course in Plano, TX. I never had the good fortune to meet Vance, Jr. but he must have been a wonderful man to be surrounded by great friends and family who continue to celebrate his life with his first love - a great game of golf with good friends.

See you on the links!

Monday, March 23, 2009

SpeedPro Imaging Grand Opening Benefits LIFT

Raising money for a non profit is a many varied and splendorous thing, especially in these challenging economic times. Before someone invests in your mission, you need to show them their hard earned dollars and time are going to be well used.

I explain that non profit fundraising is a lot like dating. Relationships must be built. First you get to know each other and then after a while, you start to dance. But sometimes you meet someone and it just clicks. Such is the case with Eric Rozier and SpeedPro Imaging of Greater Dallas.

Eric and I first met at a Coffee Cup Connection event, sponsored by the Dallas Chamber of Commerce. A Coffee Cup Connection is sort of like speed dating - you move between tables of 6-8 and everyone gets about a minute to tell about their business and the types of customers or leads they are looking for. Eric was intrigued by LIFT and realized the importance of the work we do teaching adults to read, so he visited our downtown Dallas site. He decided then and there to become a LIFT partner.

Fast forward just a few weeks and this Thursday, March 26th, SpeedPro Imaging of Greater Dallas will have its Grand Opening and owner Eric Rozier has arranged for the event to benefit LIFT. He opened his Rolodex and is asking attendees to donate their time or their money to LIFT. He didn't have to do this - he is giving from the goodness of his heart. An opportunity like this is golden for LIFT - we are able to reach an audience that, in all honesty, probably does not know about LIFT. We will be able to educate at least 100 more people about the insidious nature of adult illiteracy and how pervasive it is in North Texas.

So, thank you Eric and SpeedPro Imaging of Greater Dallas. It is partnerships like this that keep us going. See you Thursday night!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

LIFT February Statistics

I love research - yeah - I was one of those students who really got into term papers. I love statistics and supporting evidence. It isn't just enough for me to tell you what a great job LIFT is doing teaching adults to read for free - our stats speak for themselves. So, let's look at LIFT stats for the time period of March 1, 2008 - February 28, 2009.

Number of Adult Learners Served: 8,527
Number of classes: 7,715
Class Hours (includes computer lab) 118,741

66% learners were female, 34% were male with an average age of 37. 59% were Hispanic, 28% African American, 3% Caucasian, 8% Asian and 2% Other.

67% of the Adult Literacy learners completed their course. 82% of the learners in Adult Literacy classes who completed their course improved at least one grade level. 99% of the Adult Literacy learners who completed their course improved on at least half of their goals.

63% of the English-as-a-Second Language (ESL) learners completed their course. 87% of these learners who completed the course improved at least one competency level. 99% of these learners who completed the course improved on at least half of their goals.

GED Direct, LIFT's on line distance learning GED prep course (which incidentally is the only one of its kind in the nation) has 334 students who have logged 1,000 hours of study time.

LIFT Family Literacy Workshops reached 2,124 families.

Since June 1, 2008 our volunteers have given us 19,283 volunteer hours which translates to a monetary value of $376,191.82.

I think the numbers speak for themselves, don't you?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Food for Thought

Here is a little known fact that should make you sit up, take notice and think. Do you know how the state of Texas determines the number of prison cells that will be needed? By the number of children failing third grade! And this is not only Texas. I googled "how do they determine how many prison cells to build in Texas" and found this on the Educational Cyberplayground website.
In California "if the child isn't reading on 4th grade level when tested they will plan to budget building another jail cell. “Based on this year’s fourth-grade reading scores,”
The former governor of Indiana has stated that determining the number of new prisons to build is based, in part, on the number of second graders not reading at second-grade level. Low literacy is the socio-economic factor prison inmates have most in common.
In Arizona officials have found they can use the rate of illiteracy to help calculate future prison needs. Evidence shows that children who do not read by third grade often fail to catch up and are more likely to drop out of school, take drugs, or go to prison.

Here is something else you have probably never thought of. From first through third grades, children are learning to read. From fourth grade on, children are reading to learn. If children don't have the reading skills they need by the time they start fourth grade it is an uphill battle and if they don't have someone (a parent, a mentor, a teacher) who is in their corner, this is a battle many of them lose. 75% of the prison population cannot read better than a fourth grade level, meaning they are functionally illiterate.

So what can we do? Alot! Make sure a child knows how to read and is reading on grade level by the fourth grade. Support Adult Family Literacy programs that teach parents how to read and how to read to their children. Volunteer to be a reading tutor at your local grade school. Volunteer to teach adults to read so they in turn can read to their children and end the cycle of illiteracy.

People can re-offend, fall off the wagon, start abusing again, but once you learn to read, you are never a non-reader. Learning to read is a lifetime fix to a life long problem.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

President's Budget Could Reduce Charitable Giving

There is a proposal in President Obama's Budget that is going to impact donations to non profits in a big way. This proposal would impose new limits on charitable tax deductions. People earning more than $250,000 annually can currently calim up to a 35 percent deduction. Under the new budget this deduction would drop to 28% . Could your budget take a 7% hit? Probably not.

According to an e-mail I received from the Association of Fundraising Professionals (and I quote) "Indiana University's Center on Philanthropy recently noted that the budget proposal to limit deductions and raise rates, if applied in 2006, would have reduced giving by nearly $4 billion. "

That's alot of lost funding - funding that could teach an adult to read, funding that could feed a hungry child, funding that could improve the lives of Americans.

What can you do? Simple - write your Congressman or Congresswoman. Let them know what kind of an impact a cut like this can have. That's what is great about America - we have the opportunity to make our voices heard, so let's make them heard!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Salute to Adult Learners

I am in awe of our adult learners, those individuals who decide for whatever reason that they need to better their reading skills. How hard it must be to take a deep breath and walk through those doors and admit that you can't read well or at all.

Everybody knows that ANYONE can read - you must be really stupid if you can't read, right? Or you just spent too much time goofing off in school - if you had been a better person, you would have learned to read, right?

WRONG on so many levels. 20% of the adult learners are LIFT were born and raised in this country and I would gather the majority of them attended school at least for a few years and yet they cannot read well enough to understand the newspaper. We estimate that the majority of adult learners who come to LIFT have undiagnosed learning differences. They are at LIFT not because they goofed off in school or are stupid - some where along the lines they just didn't get it.

49% of the adults in Dallas County cannot read better than a fourth grade. To show you what that means, here is an excerpt from a fourth grade level book:
There was something furry lying under one of the buses. It was almost hidden under all
the leaves, but Lily had spotted it. What's that?" Lily woofed curiously to herself. Even
though she knew she should get home right away, she couldn't resist taking a little look.
"I'd better be careful, though," she yapped. "It might be dangerous."
These are people who can't read the newspaper, cannot understand the notes that come with a prescription.

We all have faced hard things in our lives and know how difficult it is to just admit we need help. To those adult learners who have faced their fears and shortcomings and decided to take their future into their own hands - I salute you.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Thank yous - Part II

As I mentioned in a previous post, LIFT honored Volunteers and Donors of Distinction at a luncheon on Friday February 27th at the Prestonwood Country Club. LIFT and all other non profits could not exist without our donors. I like to say non profits are like Blanche Dubois - we rely upon the kindness of others. Philanthrophy is pretty amazing when you think about it - people giving their hard earned dollars to help people they don't even know. Wow.

In light of that, let me share remarks and thanks from LIFT Executive Director, Sonyia Hartwell, about our Donors of Distinction. Without them, LIFT would not be here.

Junior League of Dallas - For the past several years, the Junior League of Dallas has partnered with LIFT to not only fund some programming but also to place volunteers in classroom and special event positions. Many of these women remain at LIFT long after they have fulfilled the Junior League of Dallas volunteer commitment and remain as literacy volunteers because of their personal dedication. Junior League has a long history of fostering that spirit of volunteerism and community among its members.

Half Price Books - Known for their support of literacy causes and their promotion of reading, Half Price Books has a long history of support for LIFT and its events and programs. As a premier sponsor of the annual Champions of Literacy Luncheon and Adult Spelling Bee, Half Price Books provides much needed funds to purchase books for adult learners. Support from Half Price Books comes in other tangible and intangible ways. Each year they donate boxes of books to the family literacy program and dozens of gift cards for raffle and door prize packages. For the past six years, Mark Wren from the staff of Half Price Books has been on the LIFT board of directors. Since 2007, Mark has worked tirelessly and with impassioned commitment as the president of that body.

The Vance C. Miller Family - For as long as anyone at LIFT can remember, the Vance Miller family has been associated with supporting literacy and LIFT in particular. Geraldine, "Tincy" Miller serves on the state board of education and is a past member and board president of LIFT. Every year Vance and his sons host their friends and colleagues in a charity golf tournament honoring the late Vance Miller, Jr. that benefits LIFT to the tune of five figures annually. Their company, The Henry S. Miller Company, regularly sponsors the Champions of Literacy luncheon. Greg Miller serves on the LIFT board of directors.

CITIgroup Foundation and CitiCards - Most recently, CITI acted as the title sponsor for the 2008 Champions of Literacy Luncheon. Citi's Foundation adds to that considerable financial commitment by funding programs independent of any event.

Verizon and Verizon Foundation - Known internationally for their support of literacy programs and literacy advocacy organizations, Verizon has been one of LIFT's most steadfast supporters. In 2008, the foundation funded more than 2,500 books for LIFT's ESL program and sponsored the much needed redesign of LIFT's website. Mid year, Verizon Read surprised LIFT with a gift of more than $27,000 in direct contributions from their customers bills. Their lifetime support of LIFT is in excess of half a million dollars.

David M. Crowley Foundation - Before his passing in August 2003, Mr. David M. Crowley, a successful Dallas investor was made an advocate of adult literacy and a volunteer teachers at LIFT. During his lifetime, he and his wife Mary made generous gifts to LIFT annually. With the formation of the David M. Crowley Foundation, came an even more generous unrestricted annual grant that has been of immeasurable help to sustaining LIFT's growth. To date the Crowley family has made gifts to LIFT in it's quest to reduce adult illiteracy in the amount of three quarters of a million dollars.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Thank yous - Part I

On February 27, 2009 Literacy Instruction for Texas honored volunteers and donors of distinction with a luncheon at the Prestonwood Country Club (for which I want to add a big thank you to the Vance C. Miller family for generously underwriting this year's luncheon).

Executive Director Sonyia Hartwell thanked some of our volunteers for contributions to LIFT in 2008 and I want to post her remarks.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of LIFT. Without them, LIFT could not possibly serve more than 8,000 adult learners in one year. Truth be told, volunteering is really work without pay. The same tasks are performed, the same standards apply and the same results are achieved. In the case of LIFT, in 2008 more than 500 volunteers contributed the equivalent of a half million dollars in paid services.

Most volunteer to provide classroom instruction and encouragement to adult learners. Others serve on the board of directors making policy and raising money and awareness in support of adult literacy. Some come to help around the offices and learning center with administrative and fund development tasks. All of them are invaluable to the program and participants.

We value and admire each of these selfless acts of giving. Today there are a few that we wish to acknowledge for unique contributions to LIFT in 2008.

  • Sandy McFeeley for developing and hosting the LIFT Reading Group, an interactive reading group for adult learners to share the joy of reading and books with each other.

  • Arnell Thompson for creating and teaching the afternoon math class to help those who are seeking extra tutoring.

  • Stefon Chandler for providing gifts to the adult learners in the night program for their annual holiday party

  • Hector, Bill and Richard for assisting the LIFT IT team in a year long effort to improve the management and security of LIFT's computer network and all its stored information.

  • Don Weber for his continued work to update the LIFT database even though he lives in another state now.

  • Sarah Ahr, Brigitta Able, Sam Guerra and Lynn Sawyer for fielding two Spelling Bee teams in support of the annual Adult Spelling Bee.

  • Joan Tibbets Hudson for securing multiple radio PSA's that resulted in a thousand plus phone calls to LIFT about classes.

  • And finally to Karen Guida who volunteered a total of 446 hours in 2008 including a successful voter registration drive at LIFT for unregistered adult learners.

NBC newsman and best selling author Tom Brokaw said "It's easy to make a buck. It's a lot tougher to make a difference.". Thank you for continuing to make a big difference at LIFT.

National Reading Month

Did you know that March is National Reading Month? Neither did I until I caught a news article this morning. I am one of those individuals who cannot begin her day until she reads the Dallas Morning News cover to cover and checks out on line news articles from several sources. So, in light of this information, how are you going to celebrate National Reading Month?

Reading has always been a part of my life, and I suspect reading is important to LIFT supporters - after all - if reading wasn't so important to us, why would we want to help other adults learn to read? I thought and thought about how to celebrate National Reading Month and then it hit me - LIFT celebrates reading not just in the month of March, but every day. Every milestone that our adult learners reach in their quest to become better readers is a cause for celebration. Doesn't matter if the achievement is being able to identify the letter "a" and the sound it makes or if one of our learners achieves his/her GED. Every step towards literacy is a celebration. LIFT applauds their achievements and our students know this. That is why 46% of LIFT learners complete their courses, compared to a national average of 10%.

So, I don't know about you, but I am not going to limit National Reading Month to March - I am going to join the more than 8,000 adults who learn to read for free at LIFT each year and celebrate literacy every day.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Inaugural Post

Welcome to the inaugural post to the Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT) blog. We are excited to have yet another way to reach our readers and supporters. Since 1961 LIFT has been teaching adults to read for free - LIFT reached more than 8,000 adult learners in the past year. That is amazing considering LIFT only has a staff of 9 full time and 4 part time employees. We couldn't do it without the 500+ volunteers who teach our classes for us and it is our wonderful volunteers that I want to praise in our first post.

I have been in the non profit world for several years (some day I will share the story about how I ended up working for non profits - suffice it to say, I absolutely LOVE what I do) and I don't know of many organizations that have more than 500 ACTIVE volunteers. Most organizations would give their right arm for one fifth of that number. Our volunteers give tirelessly - they volunteer at least two hours of their time each week (and some give 8 hours a week), not counting travel time to help adults learn to read. Some of them have been volunteering with LIFT for more than ten years. You would think that the majority of our volunteers are or were teachers in their paying jobs, but that is not the case. We have doctors, lawyers, retirees, engineers, accountants, community activists, domestic goddesses - our volunteers come from all walks of life. What brings them together is their intense desire to help adults who for whatever reason did not or could not learn to read when they were younger.

Teaching someone to read is not glamorous and it isn't easy or quick. Sometimes your students have to drop out of class for a while because life gets in the way. But I think our volunteers will tell you it is the most rewarding time they spend. When you teach someone to read, you are giving a lifetime solution to a lifelong problem. Illiteracy is generational - illiterate parents begat illiterate children. Teach one adult to read and you better the lives of their entire family. People can re-offend, fall off the wagon, end up back in rehab, but once you teach someone to read, they are never a non-reader. So, thank you to the LIFT volunteers - because of you learning to read is a lifetime fix.