Literacy Project Celebrates Decade of Work

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Marilee and Steve Scruton, Jeannie Lawrence, Cheryl and Robert Venneri at the Oct. 11 Literacy Project gala.
— Photo by Still Moments Photography ©

Newport Beach resident Sue Grant recalled the time 10 years ago when she tried to get funding for her new nonprofit organization, Literacy Project Foundation.

“It was just us asking people to believe in us, our asking ‘Can you fund us?’ We had a product and asked people to step up and believe in us as a charity,” Grant told the hundreds of supporters who gathered at the Balboa Bay Resort on Oct. 11 to celebrate the Literacy Project Foundation’s 10th anniversary. “Over the past 10 years, our path has been paved by the people that stepped up.”

Step up they did, with donations of time, money and expertise.

Since its inception in 2009, the Newport Beach-based Literacy Project has served more than 9,000 struggling readers throughout Long Beach, Orange County, Los Angeles, and Coachella Valley school districts. The group recently branched out to Park City, Utah.

The organization offers a comprehensive instructional reading program which includes an interactive board game that, according to officials, improves both academic and attitudinal levels of students performing far below reading standards.

The program is provided at no cost to both the student and the school in the second grade. The program teaches the fundamental principles of phonics and literacy in three learning modalities: Auditory, visual and tactile.

At the “Magic of Reading” themed gala, The Literacy Project raised more than $98,000, which will provide nearly 1,000 students with the Literacy Project reading program at no cost.

“I knew this evening was going to be special because it marks our 10th anniversary, but tonight was beyond my wildest dreams for the program,” Executive Director of The Literacy Project Kimberly Vig said. “We are incredibly grateful for the support displayed by our community as we celebrate the more than 9,000 children we’ve helped since The Literacy Project’s founding 10 years ago, and we look forward to touching many more young lives as we continue our mission to end illiteracy in the U.S.”

The event was sponsored by Zotovich Estate Wines and included a cocktail reception and gourmet dinner provided by Balboa Bay Resort. The gala included a silent auction of local donations and sports memorabilia, a live auction, and a performance by mentalist and magician Kevin Viner that dazzled and mystified the audience.

Sue Grant, Kimberly Vig and event co-chair Penny Fox at the Oct. 11 Literacy Project gala.
— Photo by Still Moments Photography ©

The real stars of the show were three students and recent graduates of The Literacy Project’s reading program who were honored for their achievements. Each student was paired with a role model in their area of interest to learn how reading impacted their career. This year’s role models were firefighter Alfred Gomez, ImmunogenX CEO Jack Syage, and Gloria Lee of law firm Rutan & Tucker, LLP.

The Literacy Project also honored their longtime board members for building a strong foundation for the next 10 years.

Former US Ambassador to the United Nations and director of the Peace Corps, Gaddy Vasquez, was at the gala to honor the evening’s presenting sponsor, AT&T, and the company’s Regional Vice President, Richard Porras, a member of the Literacy Project advisory board.

“When Sue Grant calls you, you say ‘Yes,’ and then ask ‘What is the question?’” Vasquez quipped. “She is influential. She was there when this journey began. To see the progress and the impact is remarkable. It’s a tribute to Sue and the other collaborators.”

Vasquez told the audience that he was a descendant of a migrant farm-working family from Watsonville.

“We lived in a single room trailer, no water, living on borrowed electricity. Through a caring community, as a young child I was able to realize some of my young aspirations,” she said. “That is what you are doing here tonight. You are realizing young aspirations and opportunity. Literacy is essential to the growth and development of society. I have witnessed grass roots work making an impact, and have seen young children taught to read and write. This great project has impacted many lives.”

Committed to leading the charge against the growing illiteracy rates among Americans, The Literacy Project is successful because of the generous donations provided by supporters year-round, who consistently give the gift of literacy to children who need it most.

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