Tonawanda News

Local News

February 19, 2013

LEAP strides on

Literacy group seeks students, volunteer tutors

Tonawanda News — TOWN OF TONAWANDA — There are moments that Gillian Richardson will never forget.

A student who had struggled with reading, finally getting up the nerve to stand and recite a poem. Children gathered at the door of the LEAP Powerful Literacy Center, eager to enter and investigate the book collection. Getting a telephone call from a desperate parent and being able to help.

“It’s that sort of thing that most people don’t see, that our funders don’t see, that changes people’s lives,” Richardson, the executive director of the literacy group LEAP of WNY, said during a recent interview at the group’s Powerful Literacy Center and Children’s Library at the Sheridan-Parkside Community Center.

These are lean times for any small, mainly volunteer-run group, and LEAP has been no exception.

The group’s reading invention clinic had to move unexpectedly last summer from the Phillip Sheridan building to a new site on Sheridan Drive. Richardson had to shut off the Internet for both the sites and dramatically reduce the hours the center is open, down to two hours a day, two days a week.

“There was a time I could keep this open five days a week after school,” she said, looking around the book-lined walls of the Powerful Literacy Center. “Now I have to limit it ... and the kids are waiting at the door, saying, ‘Why can’t we come in?’ and ‘Why aren’t you open?’ I find that to be the most frustrating thing.”

Still, there has been good news. The group’s board of directors had actually voted to shut the program down at its last meeting, but a last-minute reprieve in the form of renewed United Way funding means that the board is expected to vote today to keep things going.

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