A Tribute to Sidney Savage

January 18, 2011 at 12:13 PM | Posted in Board, Volunteers | Comments Off on A Tribute to Sidney Savage
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The Literacy Council of Northern Virginia contributed another star to the sky on Wednesday, January 5, 2011 with the passing of Sidney Savage.  Sidney was one of the dedicated, passionate volunteers who worked tirelessly to keep the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia, not only functioning, but running like a well-oiled machine.  She was involved in the “early years” of the Literacy Council, but when an organization is turning 50, that covers a lot of territory.  Sidney was an active volunteer on the Board of Directors in the 1980’s, where she served until 2000, and was President of the Board from 1985 – 1987.  She stayed active on the Advisory Board until her passing this year.  When Sidney was President of the Board, Elsa Angel was Executive Director and that dynamic duo secured the safe home of the Literacy Council offices in the James Lee Community Center.  This was one of many brilliant contributions they made together to advance the strength and longevity of the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia.

When I joined the staff in 2002, Sidney and Elsa, still the dynamic duo, came by within the first month of my employment, took me to lunch, gave me the history of LCNV, and forever after have served as advisors, confidents, friends, donors, and very active volunteers.  In just thinking about the plans for LCNV’s 50th Anniversary, my first call was to Sidney Savage (the second to Elsa Angel!).  How I will miss her!  How much of a legacy Sidney has left to LCNV!

Please look up in the sky every now and then. You will see a bright star shining down on the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia.  It’s Sidney, still watching over us, as she did for so many years.  Just whisper a little “thank you!”  She’ll hear it.

Sidney was buried in Arlington National Cemetery on January 18, 2011.  Gifts can be made in her memory to the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia, www.lcnv.org

-Patti Donnelly, Executive Director

A note from Nancy

September 30, 2010 at 11:54 PM | Posted in Announcements, Board, Community Partners, Donors, Volunteers | Comments Off on A note from Nancy
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On Thursday, Sept. 23, 2010, I attended Booz Allen Hamilton’s Nonprofit Conference on Fundraising Development as a member of LCNV’s Board of Directors, along with Suzie Eaton, LCNV’s Senior Director of Development.  

The topics presented on fundraising were timely and the speakers offered workable, real life suggestions drawn from their experiences in the nonprofit sphere. I am eager to implement many of these ideas as tools in my role as a member of LCNV’s Fund Development Committee as we proactively restructure our fundraising strategy.  Ultimately, the information presented will make me a more effective spokesperson for LCNV’s mission of increasing literacy in Northern Virginia. For Suzie, the biggest take away from the session were tips on how to create a culture of fundraising for the organization that involves not only development staff, but also Board members, volunteers, students and the entire staff. It was also a chance to reconnect with colleagues and LCNV partners, such as The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, Loudoun Literacy Council, Reston Interfaith, Helping Children Worldwide, Leadership Fairfax and Arts Council of Fairfax County. 

We both highly recommend this speaker series to anyone involved in working with or volunteering for nonprofits. Please feel free to contact Suzie Eaton or me to find out how to receive information about this speaker series. Kudos to our host, Booz Allen Hamilton, and its partners for supporting this terrific program!

Nancy Needs, LCNV Board of Directors

Mapping Our Future

May 4, 2010 at 12:40 PM | Posted in Board, Development, Strategic Planning | Comments Off on Mapping Our Future

When the LCNV board and senior staff met recently to put the finishing touches on a new organizational road map for the coming years, four things became apparent:

  1. The board and staff agree that LCNV can’t rest on its laurels, no matter how well-deserved.
  2. To ensure that anyone in the northern Virginia community who wants to learn to read English has the opportunity, we must find new corporate and individual friends who will contribute to what will be a growing bottom line.
  3. We know that our teachers and volunteer force provide the backbone for this effort, and we must provide more and better training and staff development for all our staff.
  4. Finally, LCNV is ready to take on a leadership role in the literacy effort nationwide.  Already, LCNV is the 7th largest literary council in the country.  Already, other councils look to us as a model.  It is time for us to step forward in new ways to share what we have learned.

The plans are exciting.  You can find the strategic plan on LCNV’s web-site at http://lcnv.org/about/index.cfm.   We invite you to join us in the work.  Increase your donation this year or volunteer an extra hour a month or bring a new friend!  But don’t miss this chance to be part of the solution.

~Kitty Porterfield, LCNV Board Member

LCNV’s Wishlist

April 27, 2010 at 9:00 AM | Posted in Board, News | Comments Off on LCNV’s Wishlist

Last Friday night, several members of our Board and senior staff met for a Board/Staff retreat.  The meeting took place at our new satellite office in Herndon, Connections for Hope.  We spoke about the topics of fundraising, programs, and governance.  The purpose of the meeting was to devise a strategic plan for the future of the Literacy Council.  In which direction are we going?  How are we going to implement our goals?  What additional resources do we need?

One of the exercises that we did was to imagine that we received a gift of $200,000.  How would we use it?  Some of the ideas were:

  • Establish an LCNV TV channel that supports what students are learning in class
  • Build partnerships with local television stations, creative design companies, and others that can help us with public outreach
  • Update our library with new books, CDs and other media materials
  • Hire additional staff with specific expertise such as learning disabilities
  • Enroll existing staff in national training seminars and conferences
  • Open a satellite office in south county where the need for ESOL services is great

As you can see, the wheels at LCNV are constantly turning.  We are always looking for new ways to grow and improve.  We are also constantly on the lookout for ideas on the best ways for us to accomplish these goals.  Post your ideas as comments on this blog, and let us know what you would like to see at LCNV!

~ Randi Littman, Director of Operations

Revising the ESOLC Curriculum – What, Why, How…

March 8, 2010 at 9:00 AM | Posted in Board, Class, Community Partners, Development, ESOL, Teaching, Volunteers | Comments Off on Revising the ESOLC Curriculum – What, Why, How…

This year, an ESOL Learning Centers (ESOLC) team has been busy revising the program’s class curriculum. So far, we’ve piloted revised versions of the fall and winter curriculum. We have one session left to go, and we’d love to get feedback from our volunteers “in the trenches” who are already using the materials.

A little history…

In 2008, a textbook review committee was formed to review the ESOL series on the market and determine which resources would be most appropriate for our classes. The ESOLC program had been using the “Stand Out” textbook for several years, along with corresponding curricular materials developed by a consultant.

The committee, which was composed of LCNV staff and volunteers, ultimately selected the “All-Star” series from McGraw-Hill as the best fit for the ESOLC program. We began phasing in the “All-Star” in the summer of 2008 and completed the transition the following year.

Although teachers and students generally seemed to like the new series, we still had a huge challenge ahead. The program was still using the old “Stand Out” curricular materials with the new “All- Star” textbooks, which was causing some obvious difficulties for teachers.

We were absolutely thrilled when Sherrie Rudick, a long-time LCNV volunteer and a curriculum development professional, offered to help revise our curriculum. Last summer, we formed a team to work with Sherrie to begin the process.

What we’ve done…

Overall, our goals for the revised curriculum included:

  • Making the content as relevant to our students’ lives as possible.
  • Making lesson planning as easy as possible for teachers. We hoped that teachers would be able to rely on “All-Star” for most of their lesson content. Of course, teachers would still be welcome to use outside materials, but we wanted to reduce the necessity of having to do so as much as possible.

At first, we struggled with how much of the content from the previous curriculum we should keep. After some deliberation, we chose a somewhat simplified format that includes learning objectives, page references, and summaries of the vocabulary, conversational phrases, and grammar in each unit.

We hoped this would provide teachers with an easy-to-read overview of the content and enable quicker lesson planning. (For an example, check out our winter curriculum at: http://lcnv.org/teachers/resources/index.cfm).

We also strove to appropriately divide up the content to best fit into three curriculum themes:

  • Fall – Civics and Community
  • Winter – Health, Home, and Safety
  • Spring – Workplace and Finance

Looking forward…

Once we’ve completed the spring curriculum, we plan to review the work over the past year and determine if further revisions would be valuable.

In addition, McGraw-Hill has just published a second edition of the “All-Star” series. Going forward, we’ll be reviewing the updated series and determining appropriate adjustments that are needed to the curriculum.

We would love to hear from our volunteers about the thoughts on the new curriculum, so we can integrate the feedback into future revisions. Volunteers can share their thoughts on the curriculum, as well as other materials, at: http://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?hl=en&formkey=dHd4SzdpbFRfbnJhSEk3eWhhdjJQcEE6MA or by commenting on this blog. We hope to get your feedback soon!

~Amy Moy, ESOL Learning Centers Specialist

The Ups and Downs of Telecommuting

March 3, 2010 at 6:53 PM | Posted in Board, Community Partners, Development | 6 Comments

cartoon by Doug Savage

Not many people enjoy commuting. They may love their jobs, but the daily roundtrip to and from the office can wear a person down after a while. If you’ve ever been in rush hour traffic on Lee Highway, Arlington Boulevard, the 66, or heaven forbid the beltway, then you understand all too well what I’m talking about. Luckily for me, my commute is only a few seconds long. Google maps may put the trip at 2,817 miles, but I’m traveling at the speed of electrons, so that distance is covered in the blink of an eye. I’m the grants and publications specialist for the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia, and I live in San Francisco.

I’ve been with the Literacy Council since the summer of 2005, when I lived in Fairfax and attended graduate school at George Mason University. But since late 2007, I’ve been living in San Francisco and commuting via the internet every day of the work week. Though my job has remained the same, my experience of it (and my coworkers’ experience of me) has changed since I began e-commuting. There are benefits and drawbacks to an arrangement such as this. The key to making it work is accentuating the former and minimizing the latter.

So what are the benefits? One is the retention of institutional knowledge and accumulated expertise, which is fancy talk for this simple fact: the longer you stay in a job, the more you know how stuff gets done. And knowing how stuff gets done means you can do it more quickly and efficiently than someone who doesn’t. I speak from experience; when I first joined the Council, I scrambled for a while—not because the way things were done didn’t make sense but because they were new to me. We’ve all been through it. You start a new job, and it takes some time to get up to speed. Examples of the institutional knowledge I’ve gained (or contributed to) while working with the Council would include my familiarity with the language and statistics we use in the 100+ proposals we submit each year to secure funding for our educational programs. It would also include the relationships I’ve developed with parties outside our organization such as the salesman and pre-press workers at the various print shops we deal with and the points of contact at some of our key donors. And it would definitely include the relationships between me and my coworkers, which brings me to the potential drawbacks.

It can be a challenge maintaining the spirit of collaboration and solidarity that arises quite naturally when you work in the same physical space as your coworkers. If you’ve ever been to the Literacy Council’s office in Falls Church, you know how open the setting is, how conducive it is to sharing information and fostering a sense of common purpose. Most of our desks are out in the open. There are no walls or doors separating most of us, and as a result some very productive discussions arise, and a lot of valuable ideas get shared.

We’ve tried to simulate this through conference calls and IMing (real time text communication over the internet). While IMing does provide the same basic information sharing function as face-to-face speech, there’s just no substitute for actually being face-to-face. It’s a common occurrence at the LCNV office: two or three people are discussing something—a program development or a way to track statistics—and then someone else joins in the conversation with some new ideas, and before you know it a solution has materialized out of an unplanned meeting of the minds. It’s exciting stuff. Plus I just plain miss my coworkers. They’re some of the most intelligent, dedicated, and fun people I’ve ever worked with.

All in all, e-commuting is going well, and I think all parties involved have benefitted from the arrangement. Back in ’07, I when I decided to return to California, where I was born and raised and where my parents, whom I love dearly and who aren’t getting any younger, still live, I had assumed that I would have to resign a job that I’d come to enjoy and respect. So when our Executive Director suggested working remotely, I was flattered by the offer and glad to give it a shot. But I shouldn’t have been surprised by the idea. That’s one thing I’ve come to expect from the Literacy Council—people facing new challenges with creativity and resolve.

~Matt Kollmeyer, Grants and Publications Specialist

Celebrating Family Literacy

March 2, 2010 at 5:54 PM | Posted in Announcements, Board, Calendar, Community Partners, Development, Donors, ESOL, Family Learning, News, RAFA, Volunteers | Comments Off on Celebrating Family Literacy

The Literacy Council of Northern Virginia’s mission is to educate adults. Many adults are parents, so it follows that the Family Learning Program is a critical component of our service delivery. Currently, we offer six Family Learning classes throughout Fairfax County, including a brand new class at our new satellite location Connections for Hope in Herndon. Our Family Learning serves parents and their grade school children, ages 2-12. The FLP curriculum focuses on the acquisition of life skills key to the success of low-income, disadvantaged, foreign-born parents. The curricular topics are: Civics, Community and Schools; Finances and Employment; and Health and Nutrition. The parents’ children study similar lesson plans and receive homework help in a separate but nearby classroom. Classes are offered at both morning and evening time slots to accommodate families’ complicated schedules. To volunteer or promote our family learning program to a family in need, please call 703-237-0866 or visit our Family Learning Programs website.

LCNV has declared the month of March as our time to promote our Family Learning Program. Dr. Seuss’s birthday is March 2nd, as is the celebration of National Education Association’s Read Across America Day, an event promoting reading for kids of all ages. The Literacy Council hosts its own celebration of reading on Saturday, March 20th at our Reading: A Family Affair, where we bring books to life through the performing arts, story telling, songs, and technology. Sponsored by Verizon, and hosted in partnership with the James Lee Community Center, Reading: A Family Affair is a free, family, fun-filled event to promote reading and learning activities. I hope you will come join us on March 20th to experience the energy and enthusiasm that grows from reading and learning as a family. For more information visit the Literacy Council’s website.

~Patti Donnelly, Executive Director


February 23, 2010 at 7:23 PM | Posted in Board, Community Partners, Development, Student Stories, Tutoring, Volunteers | 1 Comment

In early 1997 as a newly-trained ESOL trainer, I met my new student. Doris had just arrived in the United States from Africa in early December with her husband. She spoke almost no English, and I certainly did not speak her language. In addition, the US certainly was a different environment from her home and she was very young. To say that she was facing challenges is quite an understatement.

I will confess that I “fell in love” with Doris the moment I met her! She had a gentleness and a genuineness that transcended all of our language barriers. Her smile just warmed my heart…and over time I came to see her great sense of humor, her dedication to learning and hard work, and her incredible integrity! And now, 13 years later, I and my husband count Doris (and her husband) as among our most beloved friends — almost like a second daughter.

We started with Laubach 1 and worked over the years on through other books. We went to the library together…Doris’ library card was her first formal piece of US-issued identification. We’d meet twice a week and sometimes Doris could hardly keep her eyes open because she was working two jobs at two different fast food restaurants. But she would always have prepared for our lesson and always greeted me with that warm smile. We laughed and giggled and went for walks to look at trees and flowers. From time to time we’d go shopping or out to lunch. And Doris became more and more accomplished at living successfully in the US – especially once she got her driver’s license.

I no longer tutor Doris because she now lives in Leesburg where she has continued to taken other literacy courses at the Loudon Literacy Council. However, we still see each other regularly: now we go to dinner and a movie every 6 weeks or so, and sometimes take day-long “field trips” to places like Baltimore’s Inner Harbor or the Smithsonian. Doris and her husband are considering applying for U.S. citizenship and we are looking forward to attending the ceremony and to a GREAT celebration of that event.

But the nicest thing is that every time we get together, we celebrate our forever-friendship…and give credit to LCNV for matching us up during that cold winter 13 years ago. Who would have thought that being a tutor could lead to having a wonderful extended family such as we now have with Doris and her husband! Thanks, LCNV!

~Sally Jaggar, former tutor, former LCNV Board member, current volunteer


February 2, 2010 at 5:31 PM | Posted in Announcements, Board, Community Partners, Development, News | Comments Off on Compassion

The recent earthquake in Haiti has given us all a new perspective on the importance of compassion and service to those less fortunate. It has been impressive to see the generous response of the American people, particularly our own Virginia Task Force 1, Fairfax County Search and Rescue Team. Their amazing work as first responders saved 16 lives. They provided an incredible self-less service to those most in need, and are an example of the compassionate spirit of the American people.

But you don’t have to serve in Haiti to make a difference in someone’s life. We see it at the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia every day. The January Basic Tutor Training session filled to capacity with eager to serve volunteers in just a few weeks. The ESOL tutor training that begins in late February is already filling up fast. People in our own community are stepping up to serve others and give the gift of reading.

The response to our holiday appeal for individual contributions was also impressive. Not everyone has the ability to give time, and financial support is desperately needed during these tough economic times. We raised nearly $29,000 from 217 donors, many of them giving for the first time, and have made considerable progress toward our individual challenge match of $20,000. This, too, is a commitment of service and exercise of compassion – helping in any way you can.

Our learners make sacrifices every day just to squeeze in the time to come to class or meet with their tutor. So many of our students are driven to learn for the sake of their children: to help them with homework, to read them a bed-time story, to provide a better life for them. Others want to become better citizens, get a better job, and become more productive members of their communities. One of our learners, though pressed for time, made it a point to watch President Obama’s State of the Union address, because it was his privilege and his right to participate in the government process, even as he studies to pass the citizenship test. This, too, demonstrates a commitment to country and a passion for service.

We are all in this together; and we are doing our best to make it work for our families, our communities, our country and those who live beyond our borders. The Literacy Council is grateful to all of those who serve with us.

~Patti Donnelly, Executive Director

Board of Directors Plan for a New Year at the Annual Retreat

September 21, 2009 at 5:02 PM | Posted in Board, Development, News, Strategic Planning | 1 Comment

On Saturday, Sept 12, the LCNV Board of Directors met for our annual retreat at the headquarters of the USA Today in McLean.  Some might wonder what on earth we’d talk about for a whole day, but you’d be surprised!  We had great discussions about the organization’s strengths, spent a lot of time planning and strategizing for the upcoming year, and got to know each other a little better.

Board members discuss plans for the upcoming year.

Board members discuss plans for the upcoming year.

One thing that came through very clearly was that the Board is very proud of the long tradition and mission of the LCNV.  The dedication of our volunteers, the passion of the staff, the commitment of the students to learn…all make for a very vibrant environment!  And it’s a good thing we have so much going for us, because the big goals and mission that we have agreed to take on present big challenges.

Two of the main areas the Board discussed during the strategy and planning part of the day included how to put LCNV on an even more balanced and diversified financial footing (no small job in this economic climate), and how to enhance service delivery to a greater proportion of students who need literacy services in Northern Virginia.  On the first front, we identified several opportunities to solidify what we’ve accomplished with government and foundation funding, and expand our corporate and individual support.  For enhanced service delivery, there are some very innovative partnerships with other organizations that hold great potential for success.  These partnerships would not be possible without creative leadership and a solid reputation that LCNV developed over the years as a reliable, knowledgeable service provider and respected member of the community.

So on behalf of the Board, we look forward to working with all of LCNV’s volunteers, partners, stakeholders, funders, and students to make this year one of the best for all involved.

–  Mark Troppe, Secretary of the 2009-2010 LCNV Board of Directors

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