LEADERS IN LITERACY Bennett, Meeker honored as Volunteer, Tutor of the Year


Dianne Bennett of Westminster didn't expect to be named Volunteer of the Year by the Literacy Council of Carroll County at the group's annual meeting Monday.

She was too busy making sure everyone had enough food and coffee, after she stepped in at the last minute to substitute for the organizer of the dinner for about 50 people at Grace Lutheran Church in Westminster.

"All my energies were in, 'Let's get that food table in the right spot. Get that coffee made,' " she said.

Also on Monday, Marilynn Meeker of Westminster was named Tutor of the Year by the Literacy Council.

"I think it came as an absolute surprise to both of them," said Marian Carr, director of the Literacy Council.

Ms. Carr said Ms. Bennett's work organizing the meal was an example of her willingness to step in wherever she sees a need.

"She's my right-hand person," Ms. Carr said.

Ms. Bennett, who has volunteered for the Literacy Council since 1988, used to be a tutor for the group. Now she does assessments of new clients' needs, writes the group's newsletter and works in the office.

Ms. Carr said Ms. Bennett had put in 356 hours for the council over the past year.

"As important as tutors are, you can't run an organization like this alone," Ms. Carr said.

Asked why she became a literacy volunteer, Ms. Bennett said, "Reading has expanded my horizons. . . . I had wanted to share that with people who can't read."

She said she enjoys doing assessments, matching people with the volunteers and teaching materials best suited to their needs.

Ms. Meeker, the Tutor of the Year, has volunteered for the Literacy Council for about 18 months.

She put in more than 200 hours for the Literacy Council over the past year, Ms. Carr said.

That includes about two two-hour lessons a week, plus two hours' preparation for each lesson, Ms. Meeker said.

She is adept at helping people who speak English but cannot read and write well, in addition to those who are fluent in another language and are learning to read and write English.

"She has turned herself into a teacher," said Ms. Carr. "She could probably handle any classroom, anywhere."

When she decided to become a literacy volunteer, Ms. Meeker began studying Spanish. Learning the patterns of another language would help her understand her students' problems learning English, she said.

Ms. Meeker also traveled to Pennsylvania for training in teaching English as a second language.

"To teach the language to someone who doesn't know English is just another world," she said. "You have to hold the person's attention right away, or you're going to lose them forever."

Ms. Carr said, "She wants to make sure that she does it right."

"I just hope that more people become interested in literacy work," Ms. Meeker said.

"There are more people coming to this part of the country who need help."

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