What is your dream? 

This simple questions provokes a long list of all the things we desire. A simple question that usually is answered with what we believe would make us happy in life. If we individually listed our answers, we would discover that we all have different "dreams." Some complicated, some simple.

Several months ago I was sitting at my desk stressing over a fundraiser, stressing over raising money, and in general just having one of those crazy days. As I was taking a deep breath and feeling frustrated, I heard a tutor ask his student, "What is your dream?" She responded with, "My dream is to learn to read".

In the midst of my frustration, that was my aha moment. I was reminded that the work we do at the Florence Area Literacy Council is changing lives and fulfilling dreams for people in our community. Not the dream of a new car or winning the lottery. Learning to read. Can you imagine being an adult and your biggest dream is to be able to read?

In Florence County, 33% of the adults in our community are functionally illiterate. The generational cycle of illiteracy has detrimental outcomes, not only for the adult learners but for their children, families and our community. In Florence County, 1 out of every 3 adults struggles to read above a fifth-grade level.

Just think about that for a minute.

The importance of literacy skills cannot be denied, but we don't always think about how illiteracy affects an adult. Life as an illiterate adult means being a parent who can't read a bedtime story to your child. It means not being able to support your family because you can't work. It means staring at a prescription bottle trying to figure out how much medicine you should take. It means living in a world where letters and numbers surround you everywhere you go and not understanding how they all fit together.

Educational attainment is a key step toward breaking the cycle of illiteracy and poverty for families. The Florence Area Literacy Council's academic program is designed not only to improve the educational functioning levels of participants but also to provide essential life skills for the undereducated.

Workshops and small-group instruction is offered by the FALC staff and volunteers. Professionals from the community also provide workplace and life skills workshops to help better prepare our students for the future.

So, how does your United Way donation help the Florence Area Literacy Council continue to change lives? The simple answer is your donation provides funding for educational programs that would not be available if it weren't for your help. Your donations positively impact the lives of area adults who are working to become educationally qualified for employment and working to become more self-sufficient. 

A $10 donation provides a workbook for an adult learner in order to help him or her improve math skills.

A $20 donation provides online, independent learning options for adult learners participating in our program.

A $50 donation provides teacher material for a student/tutor pair to work one-on-one in the subject area of reading and math.

These are the tangible benefits of your donations. However, your generosity reaches so much farther. Your donation changes lives.

The money you donate helps improve our community. It gives confidence and builds the capability of our adult learners.

Your donation makes dreams come true.

Written by Christina Lawson, Executive Director of the Florence Area Literacy Council
Originally published in the Thursday, January 16, 2020 edition of the Morning News

This article is part of a series of articles that the Morning News is publishing on the Opinion page each Thursday from now through April 2nd. The articles are written by the directors of the 18 partner agencies of the United Way of Florence County. Check out the articles in the Thursday print edition of the Morning News, on scnow.com, or on our website on the Friday following the article's publication date.