Planning & Progress

By Alia Hammerstone

A typical A to Z meeting begins with a plethora of hugs and a few minutes of catching up in the Keenan’s kitchen. This particular Wednesday is no different, despite the chill and damp in the air outside, we are warmed with the greetings and small talk this monthly meeting affords us.

We then gather around the living room and watch Chimamanda Ngozi’s Ted Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story”. It is a thought-provoking story of the assumptions and stereotypes people give credence to; and how a single story (about people, places, etc.) often leads to misunderstandings.

After a brief discussion on the impact of the Ted Talk, and how it relates to our work, we move to the dining room and gather around some snacks and agendas. At this time, we talk a few moments to go around and celebrate one good thing to share – from weddings and travels to graduations and new professional developments. Our conversations are organic, driven by both the agenda and our own collaboration.

This month’s focus was on finalizing a new location to host our annual February fundraising event, summer plans and continuing to grow with our outreach. Mary worked hard on connecting with local event spaces, and A to Z is excited to announce our annual FUNdraiser event will be at Smith’s Central Garage in McHenry! We are thrilled at the opportunity to grow and host our event in such a unique space.

Another area A to Z Literacy is looking to expand is with more local outreach for organizations who help marginalized teens struggling with mental health. Our goal is to increase outreach with young adults and continue to promote literacy within the community.

Mal, Betty, and Alia will be traveling to Zambia this July and shared their tentative plans for the workshop they will help facilitate at School of Hope. Part of what makes A to Z so successful is the continuous brainstorming and feedback of the members; everyone comes bearing a wealth of knowledge and experiences that help to guide our events and efforts.

The meeting tends to wrap up much the same as it started, with embraces around and well-wishes for the weeks ahead until our next meeting. We leave with a purpose and set of ideas to investigate- be it for local/global outreach, book drives, donations, etc. Our organization is thrilled to be continuing work this summer, both locally- with our book drive at D47’s Glacier Ridge, and abroad- with our continuing work in Zambia.

A Shipment: From Start to Finish

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It all starts with a fundraiser – like dodgeball tournaments at Bernotas Middle School and Hannah Beardsley Middle School in Crystal Lake, Illinois. These fantastic schools hosted their annual A to Z Dodgeball Tournaments to raise funds for the shipping of books.

A to Z volunteers then hit the local libraries (post book sales) to gather free children’s books. (Library books are especially awesome as the sturdy hardcover selection provides a balanced assortment for our recipients.) Once the books are hand-picked, they are then boxed up, addressed, and bagged. Ready for the post office!

At the post office, the patient postal worker, Donna, methodically weighs each box, types in all of the shipping information, and ensures each M-Bag has a customs form attached to the M-Bag tag.   It’s a process . . .  and the line of people behind us usually grows as we work through each box . . . it takes between 30-40 minutes.

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Today we shipped six boxes of children’s books to a new country – Pakistan. So exciting! Shearyar Arif Jessani found our nonprofit via the internet and requested an A to Z shipment for a small community library.  The little library will serve as a reading room for children in the area and the boys and girls will be able to check library books out as well.

As always, we are so grateful for our supporters who continue to help us meet our goals and live out our mission to increase the love of reading and get books into children’s hands.

Honoring Aunt Jo and Her Love of Reading

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A to Z recently received a financial gift from the Robinson/Stough Family in honor of their Aunt Joanne’s 90th birthday.

The note on the back of the donation form read:

Aunt Jo’s life has inspired us all with the message that reading books are the answer to a lot of the world’s problems and we know this is part of the A to Z’s important mission. Thank you for the work you are doing to help some wonderful children start to reach their potential.  ~The Robinson/Stough Family

We are so grateful to this family for their generous gift and feel truly honored to be included in Aunt Jo’s birthday celebration as she is a kind, thoughtful, and loving teacher who still believes books can save the world. Here’s to you, Aunt Jo!

 

Bidding and Baskets

As the A to Z team continues to prep for our upcoming event, Libations For Literacy, we wanted to share a few of the amazing auction items that will be available to bid on February 3rd from 7:00-10:00 at the Park Place in Crystal Lake.

As always, we have great tickets for local sporting events like the Chicago Bulls, Chicago Wolves, Schaumburg Boomers, and the Windy City Bulls. This year’s Cubs tickets offer incredible seats behind home plate on the lower level.

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For those guests who enjoy getting out and about, we have Raue Center and Paramount Theatre tickets to bid on as well as a family four pack to the Chicago Field Museum.

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Along with tickets to events, our team has creatively put together a variety of gift baskets that offer something for everyone. Golf? We’ve got it. Coffee and tea? Ready. Photography and local artwork? You bet! Fun things for your home? Check.

And of course, while you are bidding on different auction items, you will be sampling different beers provided by Crystal Lake Brewing and Wild Onion Brewery or tasting delicious wines provided by Scott and Garfield’s Beverage Warehouse.

Head to the A to Z website to purchase your tickets or feel free to purchase at the door. We can’t wait to see you!

A Request For Books

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Hello, my name is Christine. I am a friend of Sydney and a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zambia. My school has started to build a small library and starting to slowly gather some books, but I would love a more variety of books for my students to learn and engage themselves to their fullest abilities. I heard that you may be able to help me in starting to enlarge this library with donating books? This would really mean so much to me. Having the students stay after school and read can really improve their confidence in learning English. Thank you so much. Christine K.

Emails like this one from Christine arrive in my A to Z inbox often. Receiving requests for children’s books from Peace Corps volunteers in Zambia, librarians in Swaziland, and teachers in Ghana always makes me smile. It brings me hope. These hard-working individuals believe in the power of literacy. Along with our partners across oceans, parent groups in McHenry County, church volunteers in Lake County, and community center volunteers also email to request book donations for their programs. And again, I am filled with joy as I read and know people all over the local area care about literacy. They, like me, believe reading opens doors.

To ship Christine the six boxes of children’s books we usually send, it will cost A to Z about $1,200. Our nonprofit organization is hoping to send at least five separate shipments in 2018 with Christine being our first one in this “sending season”. Please consider attending our annual fundraiser, Libations For Literacy, on Saturday, Feb. 3rd from 7:00-10:00 at Park Place in Crystal Lake, IL. You can purchase tickets on the A to Z website or buy them at the door. With your generous support, we can get Christine her books and help this Peace Corps volunteer promote the love of reading in Zambia.

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Libations For Literacy

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Happy New Year everyone! We hope you had a wonderful holiday season with your family and friends. Moving into 2018, the A to Z team is excited to announce our upcoming FUNdraiser, Libations For Literacy, on Saturday, February 3rd from 7:00 – 10:00 at Park Place in Crystal Lake. Please come out and join us in tasting a few wines, sampling a few beers, and bidding on a few great silent auction items.

As you know, this annual event is critical for us to meet our organization’s 2018 goals.  Currently, sending one shipment of books (six boxes) costs us $1,200 and we want to send at least five shipments this year. The nonprofit also strives to help fund professional learning opportunities for impoverished schools and teachers and provide tuition support for secondary students in Zambia. Of course, the proposed 2018 goals all line up with A to Z Literacy Movement’s mission to increase literacy levels and promote the love of reading locally and globally.

Head to the A to Z website to purchase your tickets for the event and thank you so much for continuing to support our work.  (www.atozliteracy.org)

 

A to Z’s East Coast Connection

By Betty Trummel

Since I moved from Crystal Lake to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, I’ve been thinking about ways to get involved with my “new” community.  What was I passionate about supporting back home in Illinois?  What can I do to better my community no matter where I live?  Of course, my involvement and connection with A to Z Literacy Movement has been extremely important to me since our organization began.  I felt there was no reason not to bring this important work with me when I moved to the East Coast.  In the brief time, I’ve lived on Cape Cod, I have been excited about creating new possibilities for literacy!

During this holiday season, a wonderful opportunity developed for A to Z Literacy to partner with my local school in Harwich, Massachusetts and the Family Pantry of Cape Cod on a successful book drive!

Over 1,200 books were donated by Harwich Elementary School! Over 300 NEW books went into holiday toy/gift bags given out on December 17th at the Family Pantry.

900+ books went right into the “boutique” at the Family Pantry, where folks can choose books when they come to get food and clothing.

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About 35 nonfiction books will be taken with me when I travel to Zambia next July…to be used in instruction and donated to the library at Shine Zambia Reading Academy.

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I’m feeling great about the generosity of so many…thank you Harwich Elementary School for your fabulous effort with the book drive!  Thank you to the Family Pantry of Cape Cod for welcoming me and being open to creating this partnership.  Our nonprofit strives to get books into the hands of vulnerable children, whether it is through local or international projects.  Thank you A to Z Literacy, for having such a profound impact on my life both personally and as an educator.

No matter where we all live, it’s easy to find ways to support others, during the holiday season and all year long.  Happy Holidays, wherever you are!