Seventeen elementary schools in Deschutes, Crook, and Jefferson counties participated in SMART (Start Making a Reader Today) this year, making 2009 a banner year for the childhood literacy organization.
This year was highly anticipated given that the majority of the local SMART programs were coordinated by volunteers, unlike last year where all of the coordinators were paid. Community members stepped forward to keep the SMART program going, and the program thrived. 695 volunteers read one-on-one with 791 SMART children. Central Oregon volunteers gave a grand total of 16,278 hours this year. SMART gave 9,105 books to children who participated in the program between October and May of this year.
Concerning the recent move from paid coordinators to volunteers, Kristen Rooney-Gleeson, Principal at Vern Patrick Elementary School in Redmond said “I have been very impressed by the energy, professionalism and support of our fabulous SMART coordinators and volunteers at Vern Patrick. I have to admit I was very worried about this moving to a volunteer only program, but it seems to be stronger than ever.” The SMART program at 11 of the 17 schools was coordinated by volunteers this year, and in the 2009-10 school year that number will continue to grow.
In addition to the volunteer readers and coordinators, SMART has another group who has been making strides this past year. The Bend SMART Chapter, which was created in 2008 through the Leadership Bend class, is made up of community leaders who believe in the power of literacy and are dedicated to seeing SMART succeed. The three main functions of the SMART chapter are to raise support, funds, and volunteers for the program in the community. The SMART chapter is currently in the process of planning a fundraiser for the fall, and spreading the word about SMART volunteer opportunities at summer community events and activities.
Stacey Dodson, U.S. Bank’s regional president and member of the Bend SMART Chapter described the value of the program and the efforts of the local chapter. “Our chapter is a wonderful mix of volunteer readers, local business people, retirees and talented, artistic folks who share a great passion for reading and a commitment to bring reading to children who might otherwise go without. It is incredibly rewarding to participate in the grass roots efforts of the chapter, creating awareness, generating support and raising funds to ensure the SMART program continues for the youngsters in our communities.”
Despite a great year, more children are in need of help. A wide variety of volunteers are needed to support the SMART program in your local community. Opportunities exist from an hour a week, to one time commitments, to once a month, to more often. Days, times, hours vary as does the amount of time during the school year. Interested parties can call the local SMART office at 383.6466 to learn more.