At the Oneida Public Library, “the library with a social conscience,” under the energetic, visionary and productive leadership of Director Carolyn Gerakopoulos, beginning in 2000, “outreach” became a byword.
With grant funding, Gerakopoulos hired Judy Donnelly as adult literacy coordinator. Donnelly, working closely with Nick Sbarra of LVA Utica, created the very successful adult literacy outreach program that still flourishes 18 years later.
The Oneida Public Library’s adult literacy model was to provide free quality literacy services in a friendly, professional and confidential environment for adults who wish to learn to read, write and converse in English at a higher level of proficiency; and to connect these learners to community services and resources as needed that would enhance their quality of life.
In 2006, with a CNY Community Foundation grant, one of Donnelly’s tireless volunteers, Morris Atwood, became the first Director of Madison County Reads Ahead. Atwood was able to convince every library in the county to adopt the Oneida Public Library’s model. Atwood established the program as it exists today: program director, local coordinators, volunteer tutors—who serve 100 adults a year and regularly graduate dozens with their new high school equivalency diplomas.
Atwood’s good works were recognized repeatedly in the press and by many area service organizations. Fittingly, in May 2012, the Oneida Rotary Club awarded him the “Roses for the Living Award.” Begun in 1943, this award recognizes “unselfish giving of abilities, time and efforts of an individual for the betterment of his or her family, community and/or fellow workers that goes well beyond what might be expected of an individual.”
Atwood was succeeded by Pat Graham who in turn handed off to the current Program Director Tara Truett.
Madison County Reads Ahead trains volunteer literacy tutors and recruits potential learners 18 years of age and older who want to improve their basic English language skills, get a high school equivalency diploma (TASC, formerly GED) or learn English as a second language.
Madison County Reads Ahead emphasizes in its instructional focus:
From left to right:
1. Oneida Public Library’s venerable structure today.
2. In front of the new site for the NEW OPL, receiving a generous donation for the Capital Campaign: Former Director Carolyn Gerakopoulos, Board President Eileen Kinsella, Ada May Fearon and Robert H. Fearon, Jr.
3. Morris Atwood with former LCMC Director Jay Dunn at the open house of Proliteracy in Syracuse.
4. Judy Donnelly meeting with Pat Graham.
5. Tara Truett, current MCRA program director.
Please support this grassroots, proven and highly effective effort with a tax-deductible gift. Checks can be made payable to “MCRA” c/o the Oneida Public Library 220 Broad St. Oneida NY 13421.
Essential benefactors have and continue to be the CNY Community Foundation, the Gorman Foundation, the Hamilton Club and the William R. McNeice III Foundation.
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