Kristy Stewart, director of Literacy Volunteers of Upshur County, stands in front of the group's new location.

Turning the page: Literacy Volunteers open new chapter in new location

BUCKHANNON – After more than 30 years of utilizing space at the Holy Rosary Catholic Church, the Literacy Volunteers of Upshur County have opened a new chapter at 90 West Main Street.

Despite years serving students at 34 Franklin Street, the local group was asked to relocate by the church because space became an issue. For months, LVUC called upon the community for assistance in their search for a new location.

“We found out just before our spring book sale in April, and we went on a mad rush to try to find a new home because we had to be out before school started this year,” said Kristy Stewart, director of LVUC.

Facing closure if a new location wasn’t found by Aug. 31, WVU Medicine St. Joseph’s Hospital stepped in at the beginning of August and donated space at 90 West Main Street at the bottom of St. Joseph’s Hospital’s hill.

“I definitely appreciate Skip Gjolberg and St. Joseph’s Hospital for providing a place for us to help us continue our work because it is important. It is very important for this area,” commented Stewart.

She also commends the efforts and muscles of Opportunity House executive director, Matt Kerner, and his crew at the Opportunity House for their assistance in the relocation.

“We couldn’t have done it without the Opportunity House,” she said.

At the new location, Stewart explained LVUC will have to pay for the utilities of the building, something that the group didn’t have to worry about before.

And now with additional funding streams to worry about, fundraising is critical in continuing LVUC’s services.

“We rely completely on fundraising, private donations and grants,” Stewart explained. “We don’t get any state or federal assistance at all.”

Next month – Nov. 16-17– LVUC will be hosting its fall book sale benefit at Holy Rosary Catholic Church, where shoppers can hunt through thousands of donated books.

“Our book sale is one of our main fundraisers for the year,” she said, adding a book sale is held in the spring and fall.

Community members wishing to donate books can do so from 9-11:30 a.m. Thursdays at First Community Bank.

“We’ve have a sign up on the doors showing which door to go into,” she said. “Please do not take them into the bank; bring them to the doors next door.”

Those wishing to volunteer during the book sale should get a hold of LVUC. Stewart also advised anyone else wishing to contribute that the center will gladly accept food and drinks, which will be doled out to volunteers.

LVUC assists adult students who read below a sixth-grade level and struggle with math, reading, English, life skills and computer skills; they also offer ESL assistance.

With a 19 percent of the local population reading below the third-grade level, Stewart said LVUC is essential for the area.

“You have to be able to read at at least a sixth-grade level to pass the written part of the driver’s test to put it in perspective,” she said. “It’s difficult having that low of a literacy rate for an individual; they have trouble reading prescriptions, grocery lists, just to read street signs to navigate. And of course, it’s difficult to find work.”

After receiving an $8,000 grant in May from Dollar General Literacy Foundation, LVUC is hoping to expand by offering assistance to adult students who learn with sensory learning tools.

“We’re really excited to get into it because we haven’t devoted the time to that like we wanted to because of the relocation,” she said. “It’s something that means a lot to us.”

Currently, LVUC has nine literacy students, three ESL students, 11 tutors, 25 auxiliary volunteers and two college volunteers.

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