On Tuesday, Dec. 10, the Literacy of Council of Carroll County will celebrate 40 years of work in the county.
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Sam Greenholtz about the good work of the Literacy Council. In addition to his years of work with the Literacy Council, Greenholtz served on the Westminster Common Council from 1985 to 1991 and for many years was the chair of the Greater Westminster Development Corporation, a downtown Westminster advocacy organization.
Many of you, who are fortunate enough to be able to read this discussion, may shake your heads and wonder just how great is the demand for a service in the community that helps teach people how to read. You would be surprised.
Several anecdotes immediately come to mind. For 10 years, through the 1990s, I was an election judge. One of the lasting impressions of working as an election judge was the number of folks who came to vote who could not read. Some explained straightforwardly that they could not read. Most explained that they had “forgotten their glasses,” and asked for help. Several were prominent Carroll County business owners.
When I served as the mayor of Westminster from 2001-2005, I carried forward the tradition of folks who would visit the mayor’s office in City Hall with things for the mayor to read for them. In those days, Laurel Taylor, the Westminster City Clerk, was also a reading advocate as was John Dudderar, the clerk who served before her.
I had learned from helping my friend Mayor LeRoy Conaway when he was in office from 1973-1989, and Mayors Joseph Hahn, 1964-1973, and Joseph Mathias, 1942-1963, that helping folks in the community who could not read, was a once cherished tradition of the mayor’s office in Westminster. Conaway would often assign me the task to help read documents for folks or help folks get help from a local network of local attorneys that helped. Attorneys Charles Fisher Sr., and Ralph Hoffman, come to mind.
On the big picture, the September newsletter for the Literacy Council reports, “In the U.S., over 40 million adults have low literacy, including 20% of adults with a high school diploma. The U.S. ranked 21st in numeracy and 16th in literacy out of 24 countries in a 2013 assessment of adults’ skills.
In June 2016 Heather Norris wrote a story about the Literacy Council for the Carroll County Times in which Greenholtz, the council’s executive director, was quoted, “The Council has been able to carry out important work through the dedication of many volunteers, who provide countless hours of instruction… [Our mission is] to teach literacy to adults, who, for one reason or another, never learned to read and write well. … The Council relies on donations, fundraisers and grants such as this one from the National Book Fund to carry out its mission.”
Greenholtz explained that one of the goals of the Literacy Council was family literacy: “Do you know that a mother’s education level is the greatest determinant of her children’s future academic success, outweighing other factors, such as neighborhood and family income?”
In June, the Literacy Council posted a picture on its Instagram account that explained, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you will go.” The post reported, “The Literacy Council of Carroll County, Maryland was founded in 1979 by Sister Rosalia, the principal of St. John’s Catholic School in Westminster and Kathryn Sieverts, a Lutheran laywoman.
“We’ve definitely grown a lot since our humble beginnings, but our goal has always been and always will be to provide adult learners with free, confidential one-on-one tutoring to develop or improve skills in language, reading, writing, and math, enabling them to reach their personal goals…”
“The Council receives no government funding,” said Greenholtz. “And operates on donations from the community, and various grants, along with its fundraising programs. There is never a charge for Council services to the student.”
Greenholtz explained that the Literacy Council has recently become partners with the Carroll County Veterans Independence Project and has begun a number of tutoring initiatives for veterans.
“We will help you do a resume, practice doing a job interview or provide training in math and other core proficiencies necessary to join — or rejoin the work force after serving in the military,” said Greenholtz. “And this service is also available for older veterans. For example the Literacy Council helps licensing training, such as helping veterans to get their Commercial Driver’s License — or provide classes in technology. We also provide tutoring to help folks learn how to actually take a test. We serve veterans and their entire family."
For more information about the Literacy Council or to send them a gift or learn how to volunteer, check out the organization’s Facebook page or its website literacyccmd.org.