WGTE program wins ‘Education Champions’ grantWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
WGTE’s literacy program, First Book, was announced as the recipient of a $1,000 grant from United Way of Greater Toledo at a reception March 29.
Twelve area organizations competed for the award via a 72-hour online poll between March 25 and March 28. More than 900 people voted, said Bill Kitson, president and CEO of United Way.
The programs were spotlighted in Toledo Free Press’ recently completed 12-part “Education Champions” series, a partnership with United Way and Doni Miller of 13abc’s “Bridges” program. The reception was hosted at United Way by Columbia Gas of Ohio.
Kathy Smith, WGTE’s director of early learning and outreach, accepted the check on behalf of First Book, crediting a social networking campaign for rallying enough support to emerge the top vote-getter in what Kitson said was a tight race
“First Book is just a simple program that provides new storybooks to kids who would ordinarily not have the opportunity to own a book of their own,” Smith said. “This will just mean we’ll be able to buy more books and serve more kids.”
So far this school year, the program has distributed 2,151 books through 13 partner organizations in Lucas, Ottawa and Wood counties, mainly to low-income children ages 3 to 5.
Smith said the online voting process brought the program to the attention of many people who hadn’t been aware of it, including one person interested in starting a similar program in Cleveland.
The $1,000 was provided by United Way’s education committee, one of the organization’s Community Solutions teams.
“It comes out of our allocated fund that we’ve raised from the community,” said Pat Holmberg, volunteer chairperson of the committee. “We thought this was an extraordinarily worthwhile, important adventure to see how it worked.”
The Education Champions series, launched in January, spotlighted a variety of community educational initiatives, including after-school programs, teen pregnancy prevention initiatives, an in-school mobile dentistry program and more.
“We tried to show how despite the economic challenges, despite the crushing realities you are going through, there is still progress being made one student at a time — that’s what we wanted to celebrate,” said Michael S. Miller, editor in chief of Toledo Free Press, at the gathering. Miller said that while the contest is done, Toledo Free Press will continue spotlighting the issue under the “Education Champions” banner.
13abc’s Doni Miller said she was impressed by all the programs.
“I thought I knew an awful lot about Toledo. I’m around a lot, know a lot of people, see a lot of things going on, but I was amazed at some of the things you all are doing very quietly and very effectively,” Doni Miller said. “You’re finding ways to make your resources work for the betterment of these kids.”
Kitson said education is the community’s most important pressing issue and United Way’s No. 1 priority.
“We’re excited about the momentum that’s building around education in our community,” Kitson said. “To all our education partners, for the hard work you’re doing every single day: Thank you so, so much. It really was special to be able to tell your stories.”