United Way, Midwest Energy reading at Justus Gage to promote early literacyPublished 8:40am Wednesday, October 21, 2009
By JOHN EBY
Dowagiac Daily News
Traditionally, United Way of Southwest Michigan held a “Day of Caring” every September.
United Way matched volunteer teams from local businesses with area non-profit agencies to help with a project.
To create greater impact, United Way changed that event’s format, Sandra Ricci explained Tuesday at Justus Gage Elementary School, where Midwest Energy Cooperative employees from Cassopolis read to students in Ronna Page’s class.
Ricci, a campaign account manager for the Benton Harbor agency, maintains the Dowagiac satellite office of United Way.
Instead of Day of Caring, United Way will hold four “Live United Days” over the next 12 months, focusing on its four impact areas – education, income, health and basic needs.
Goal of these events is to raise community awareness of issues and challenges faced in Berrien and Cass counties, to highlight good work United Way is doing to address these challenges and to allow an opportunity for community engagement.
The Live United Day for Education the week of Oct. 19 focuses on the priority issue area of preparing children to succeed through early literacy.
As valuable community partners, United Way invited such entities as Midwest Energy of Cassopolis to go into elementary schools, preschools and child care centers throughout the two counties to spend two hours reading to and interacting with the children.
Team leaders worked with teachers at each facility prior to the event to coordinate books and activities.
United Way’s goal for this event is that teams begin to understand the huge impact early literacy has on a child’s future success.
Through interaction with students, United Way anticipates these children will be encouraged and helpful and inspired to take more interest in literacy.
United Way also hopes to see a deeper appreciation for schools, child care centers and teachers develop in our communities.
Lori Ruff, Jennifer Gilliam and Pam Hemenway represented Team Midwest, which also visited Nancy Northrop’s class.
October’s Live United Days in the Dowagiac area also involve Tri-County Head Start and St. John’s preschool.
According to President Anna Murphy, more than 150 volunteers from more than 20 businesses and organizations were assigned to more than 100 classrooms throughout Cass and Berrien counties.
Hemenway shared Judith Viorst’s classic, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad, Day.”
Ruff, with an animated accent worthy of a Dogwood Fine Arts Festival storyteller, got attention from the small fry with “Air Mail to the Moon,” about a girl nicknamed Oreo who loses a wobbly tooth and wrongfully accuses a number of people of taking it before sheepishly finding it in her own pocket.
The story offers vivid imagery, such as the chomper being “loose as a goose on ice skates.”