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under the sun
THURSDAY, JUIY 25, 1991
VISTAs Help Spread Message Of Hope, Garner Support For Literacy Effort
HY SUSAN USUKR i^? ?
As VISTA volunteers with the Brunswick County
Literacy Council, Lila Millctt, Brenda Grissctt
and Edith Brulgcr face a big challenge: spread
ing word about the council's services and helping estab
lish a solid base of financial support for its future.
VISTA is the acronym for Volunteers In Service To
America, the federal government's domestic equivalent
of the Peace Corps. Volunteers make a one-year, full
time commitment to servicc, aimed at improving the
quality of life for residents of their assigned communi
ty. In turn, VISTAs receive a "subsistence" allowance,
insurance and ongoing training.
The three locally-rccruitcd volunteers working w ith
BCLC are "essentially outreach workers." said Gladys
Wagcnscil, program coordinator for the council. "They
!c!! our story, recruit volunteers and seek referrals of
adults who want to learn to read and write." They also
help coordinate fund-raising events and special events
carried out by other council volunteers.
Their task isn't to replace other council volunteers;
in fact it's just the opposite.
One of their goals is to secure the network of re
sources that supports the work of the literacy council,
leaving it larger and stronger at the end of their one
year stint than it was when they came.
The most challenging and sometimes frustrating
part of their assignment, all three agreed in a recent in
terview, is reaching the council's target clients? adults
and older teens with little or no reading and/or writing
ability who want to improve their skills.
Most clients ask for a tutor after learning about the
council from someone who can read and who encour
ages them to leam ? another literacy student, a family
member, a caseworker, their pastor, someone at work.
The council offers free tutoring and protects the
confidentiality of its students. Its services offer an alter
native to those who are uncomfortable with a classroom
setting, lack confidence in their abilities or otherwise
need one-on-onc attention. It has tutors trained to work
with non-English speaking students as well.
Much of the VISTAs' day-to-day contact is with
community leaders in civic groups, churches, town
halls, servicc agencies and industries ? people who can
pass on information about the free services available
through the literacy council. ?
Millctt is assigned to the middle section of the
county, Ms. Bridger to the northern end and Ms.
Grissctt to the western end. Within that broad area each
has targeted specific communities for outreach efforts.
Recently several have teamed up to go door-to-door
in specific neighborhoods, something Ms. Wagcnscil
expects they'll be doing more of in the coming weeks.
Each VISTA brings to the year-long posting a con
cern for the welfare of others and a unique set of talents
Lila Millctt, a former employee of Lower Cape Fear
Hospice, s wcikcd "liotli sides of the fence" ? as a
volunteer and as someone who supervises volunteers.
As a former co-chairman of the literacy council, she
, . . . STAFF PHOTO BY SUSAN USHER
VISTAs (from left) Edith Bridger, Brenda Grissett and lAla Millett have a mission: Building a stronger Brunswick County Literacy Council b\ sharing its
message of hope and opportunity with the public.
knew first-hand of the agcncy's needs and iis work.
"1 fell il was an area where 1 could fill a need," she
said. "If 1 can find jusl one person who learns how to
read it is worth il."
One of her current projects is coordinating volun
teers involved in staging the council's second annual
Bee for Literacy adult spelling bee, a fund-raising and
public awareness event.
The VISTAs have also coordinated a hook and plant
sale and arc working with the council's Calabash satel
lite group on an upcoming canister drive. Volunteers
will be stationed at food stores counlywidc Aug. 2 and
3 to solicit contributions to the council.
Edith Bridgcr is a retired librarian, most recently
employed as manager of the West Brunswick Branch
Library in Shallotte. After serving for several years on
the advisory hoard of the literacy council, she saw the
move from librarian to literacy volunteer as a natural
"It's still reading," she said.
In her previous job she worked with those who
could read, many of whom were avid readers. Now she
works on behalf of those who arc beginning to read,
just realizing the power and opportunities that knowl
Brenda Grissett, who lives in Ash, had worked 17
years as a Head Start preschool teacher and thought
serving as a VISTA would be "a great way to work
with people, to help them."
Like many of the people she's made contact with
since starting as a VISTA in April, she really wasn't fa
miliar with the BCLC before a friend called her atten
tion to the VISTA opening.
"1 knew about the literacy council, but I didn't real
ly understand how it works," she said. "I didn't realize
just how worthwhile a cause it is."
Since taking on the job, she says she's had "some
pretty good experiences" as she tells others about the
council in the Thomasboro, Longwood and Ash areas
and is enthused about the council's ministry.
The more people she and the other VISTAs contact,
the more non-readers the council can reach with its
message of hope that they, too, can learn to read and
change their lives for the better.
Want to help? Contact the BCLC at 754-READ.
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