Saturday, January 19, 2008

United Way of Cass-Clay raised more than $4.4 million dollars

United Way of Cass-Clay raised more than $4.4 million dollars in 2007, surpassing the organization’s goal by $50,000, organizers announced Friday.
Doug Hamilton, the 2007 campaign chair, announced the 2007 campaign’s 7 percent increase compared to funds raised in 2006 during a news conference.
Hamilton also highlighted some of the organization’s key moments in 2007, including:
- More than 1,800 volunteers from 92 businesses helped 450 seniors during the organization’s 16th annual “Day of Caring,” making the 2007 event the organization’s biggest to date, Hamilton said.
- Businesses, organizations and individuals donated more than $72,500 worth of supplies during the School Supply Drive, which provided 3,200 children with backpacks and school supplies at the start of school.
- United Way distributed an average of 7,722 books a month to children in Cass and Clay counties through Imagination Library, which provides free books to children from birth until their fifth birthday.
More than 1,600 individual donors and 516 organizations helped raise funds during the 2007 campaign, which will be allocated to 57 programs, Hamilton said.
He added that the continued success of the fundraising campaign demonstrates how well local residents take care of others.
“United Way’s success illustrates that we live in a very generous community,” Hamilton said.


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Monday, January 14, 2008

Dolly's Imagination Library program get's praise with

Most of us are from the generation that was taught that you work for everything you have, you don’t ask anyone for anything, you say please and thank you, and you don’t believe everything you hear or read.Well, you can believe this. You can get something for nothing and here’s how. For those of us with children, the United Way and Laurens County School Districts 55 and 56 began offering a program to assist pre-school aged children with reading levels to promote school readiness.This program, called the Imagination Library, is available to any child age under age five in Laurens County. By enrolling, children receive a book a month delivered to their homes from the Imagination Library program. Ideally, a child enrolling in Imagination Library at birth would start school at age five with a library of 60 books of his very own. The books each child receives are hardback, age appropriate books that are pre-approved by a national board of educators. Have you priced hardback children’s books lately? They are expensive! United Way and the two School Districts pick up this tab for any child living in this community at an average price of $35 per year per child. Imagination Library was the brainchild of country music legend, Dolly Parton. Because Parton was from a very impoverished home, she shares that her mother used to read the same book over and over to her. She says she remembers as a child thinking that if she grew up to become wealthy, she would make sure that children of all ages had the books they needed to succeed. Five years ago, in 2002, United Way and the School Districts began offering this program to the children of this community. Like Dolly, we share the same dream for Laurens County’s children. We want to make sure that all children arrive to school prepared to learn and prepared to read.Since we began the program, over 3,500 children have benefited from Imagination Library and over 65,000 books have been delivered to our children! We believe it’s an investment in our children and an investment in this community’s future.If you have children and you have not enrolled them in our Imagination Library program, what are you waiting for? Find out more by checking this program out on our website at www.uwlc-online.orgWe’d like nothing better than for every child in our community to have that library in their homes. And, the best news is that this program is FREE. Now that’s something for nothing!
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Monday, January 7, 2008

Cape Breton flavour added to documentary about Parton’s literacy program

TROY — A documentary detailing a country music legend’s campaign for children’s literacy will feature some Cape Breton flavour.The Book Lady, chronicling Dolly Parton’s Dollywood Foundation and her Imagination Library program in both the United States and Canada, shot some footage in Cape Breton this week, conducting interviews with renowned fiddler Natalie MacMaster and a Waycobah-area family which has been involved in the program.The one-hour documentary is being produced by Sydney native Brad Horvath for Halifax-based Emotion Pictures, in association with Horvath’s own company, Amygdala Pictures.“The documentary is two-fold,” said Horvath, who serves as producer on the project. “(It) will show another side of Dolly and shed light on the importance of reading to preschool children. We hope it will also inspire people to get involved in this initiative.”Imagination Library is a program that mails free, age-appropriate books each month to preschool children.The Grammy-winning and Oscar-nominated singer, songwriter and actress has given millions of books to American children since initially setting up Imagination Library in 1996 to aid children in her home state of Tennessee. In 2007, she partnered with Canadian charitable organization, Invest in Kids, and brought the campaign to several Canadian communities, including two in Nova Scotia — Dartmouth and Waycobah.Several months ago, Horvath and Halifax-based director Natasha Ryan travelled with a small crew to meet Parton in Tennessee and have since interviewed a number of prominent Canadians and Americans for the documentary including Academy Award-winning actress Olympia Dukakis, country music singer Keith Urban, actress and singer Miley Cyrus, star of the Disney Channel hit series Hannah Montana, figure skating champion Kurt Browning and children’s author Robert Munsch.Horvath said he was thrilled to include a piece of home in the documentary and MacMaster — an admirer of Parton’s and a mother of two young children who is committed to the literacy cause — was a natural fit for the documentary.“Natalie was lovely. We had a great time with her,” he said, noting after doing an interview with the fiddler they taped MacMaster’s young nephew reading a book to her.After completing filming with MacMaster in her home community of Troy, the documentarians moved on to the Waycobah First Nation where they interviewed a mother who has been receiving books for her children through the program as well as local health centre staff who help administer the program in the community.Halifax-based filmmaker Thom Fitzgerald serves as executive producer on The Book Lady, which has been pre-sold to CBC-TV for national broadcast. Horvath noted other broadcasters have also expressed interest in the documentary.
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Thursday, January 3, 2008

Dolly Parton brings focus of world's media to Rotherham

Rotherham was recently the focus of the world’s media when it hosted the launch of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library presented by Dolly Parton in person. The venue was the Magna Science and Education Centre and dignitaries, officials and children from across the region were invited to share in the event. It was a fantastic occasion and rather surreal with the Leader of the Council and Dolly Parton sharing a stage and where Dolly sang a couple of her favourite songs to a very impressed audience.But the real surprise was that the scheme that Dolly Parton had launched and funded in her home county of Servier in Tennessee over 10 years ago was now being offered to the young children of Rotherham.Dolly Parton began the Imagination Library in her home county of Servier in Tennessee over 10 years ago to try to address the poor literacy skills of the children and to help children develop the same love of books that had inspired Dolly when she was young.Why Rotherham? Rotherham is very similar to a lot of towns where traditional industries have disappeared and it is now evident that the population does not have the literacy skills necessary to obtain the jobs available. On current analysis about 40% of the adult population in Rotherham have some difficulty with literacy skills. This low literacy level of the adults impacts on the help that a parent can give their child either by reading with them, using the local library, or aspiring for and with the child.Rotherham is launching the Imagination Library to help create a bigger impact on children’s early reading skills and to connect with those families who lack the confidence and skills to use local services such as libraries. Many families have not been introduced to the possibilities that libraries can help them with such as borrowing books, using computers, help with homework or studying for their own personal interest.In Rotherham, like many other towns, the speaking and listening skills of children starting in Foundation stages of early education are low and much earlier interventions are required to improve this. Imagination Library complements other schemes such as Book Start and Book Time ,reaching out to children from birth. and will give an additional platform from which to reach out to the families who are not accessing other early education experiences and who are not aware of how important their role is in encouraging speaking, listening and reading with very small children well before they start school.How does the scheme work? All children resident in Rotherham aged between 0 – 5 years old can register for the Imagination Library. A leaflet with a registration form is available from a variety of settings including the hospital, registrar’s office, children’s centres, schools, libraries and doctors surgeries. The books are addressed to the child and are delivered to their home once a month about 8 – 10 weeks after registering for the scheme. Traditional stories and good quality story books, appropriate to their age, are chosen by a panel of literacy experts and reviewed annually. The funding comes from communities, charities, grants and individuals who sponsor a child or children. The cost per child is the equivalent of 50 pence per week for the 5 years if the child is registered at birth making a total of about £125 per child for the 60 books that make up the Imagination Library.How will another reading scheme make any more of an impact than what is already being funded and provided for families and children? It is difficult to answer that question at this time. What is evident is that for the first time the book will go directly to the child at their family home and because the parents have to enrol and register the child they will be engaged in reading with their child from the start of the Imagination library membership.Rotherham is monitoring and evaluating the impact of the scheme by working with some families to evidence any progress they make in reading with their child , increasing their participation with libraries and any changes to their own reading habits.Activities are already being extended that link to the books being delivered so that different age groups of children can be invited with their families to “Baby Book Clubs” that could run in local libraries or other local community settings. This will build on the many and varied activities that already take place. Story Sacks can be created, again linked to particular books that will have been sent to the children, and parents can come along and join other families in using puppets to retell stories and learn about the language of books. Schools will know which children have already registered and can prepare first steps into school around this knowledge encouraging other families to join the scheme.The Skills for Life agenda will be considered with awareness training taking place for staff across all organisations that support and serve families with young children. Additional opportunities for parents who may wish to improve their own reading skills will have a raised profile and can provide a further improvement to the skills of our community.It is not yet clear what, if any, additional work there will be but we do know that a different approach is necessary. By using the information that connects and gives a link to every family who is registered the ideas are endless. In addition to membership of the Imagination Library, the registration forms will offer membership of their local library and this could also help in informing families when they are eligible for their Book Start packs and how to collect them. We do know that when parents are involved in their children’s learning the impact is huge and children make great strides, whilst their parents often develop their own love of learning and reading. Adults become a more positive role model and, together, the family starts to use more local services and are able to make better choices for themselves.Everyone who is concerned about the literacy skills of our population is constantly searching for new ways to engage adults and children and improve their reading and involvement in learning to help provide a vibrant and successful community.Dolly Parton has a unique, well tried and tested opportunity and our children deserve everything we can do to help them become lifelong readers.
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