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Reading Is Fundamental Selects 2011 Volunteer of the Year Award Winners

Volunteers recognized for their dedication and commitment to children’s literacy

WASHINGTON, March 28, 2011—Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), the nation's largest children’s literacy nonprofit organization, announced its three recipients of the 2011 Anne Hazard Richardson RIF Volunteer of the Year Award (VOYA), sponsored by Macy's, RIF's lead partner for volunteer engagement.

Volunteers are the backbone of RIF programs in communities across America. VOYA 2011 recognizes the inspiring work of a RIF coordinator, a parent volunteer, and a community volunteer who have donated their time, talents, and energy to help children discover the joy of reading. RIF is proud to recognize the following volunteers for their dedication and service as truly outstanding advocates for RIF: Suzanne Fillmore of Pocatello Head Start in Chubbuck, ID; Patricia Gillespie of Thomas Jefferson High School in Council Bluffs, IA; and Mary Comfort Stevens of the Book’em RIF program in Nashville, TN.   

“Volunteers who go above and beyond to make reading a fun and rewarding experience for children are at the heart of RIF’s success,” said Carol H. Rasco, president and CEO of RIF.  “I’m honored to recognize the dedication and contributions of these volunteers who are working to improve literacy in their communities.”

Suzanne Fillmore -- Chubbuck, Idaho
Suzanne is a parent volunteer at the Pocatello Head Start program and serves as a classroom RIF representative.  Together, with other classroom parents and teachers, Suzanne has planned exciting thematic and motivational activities and invited community guest readers to participate in their projects.  Through Suzanne’s creative leadership and energy, the parents and the community have been tremendously engaged in the RIF distribution program at Pocatello Head Start.

Patricia Gillespie -- Council Bluffs, Iowa
Patricia (Patty) did not learn to read until she was 19 years old when she taught herself to read. She has since dedicated her life to helping others to read.  Patty began the RIF program at Thomas Jefferson High School nine years ago, and has been responsible for running the program since its inception.  As a reading specialist for 30 years, Patty orders all of the books for the distributions, along with performing all of the necessary duties to execute the RIF program at the school.  Prior to each distribution, she creates activities and materials to motivate the students to read and enlighten the students.  The activities oftentimes feature specific themes and include videos, community leaders reading to students, writing and art contests, book contests, treasure hunts throughout the school, read/think aloud projects, posters, school bulletin boards, etc. 

Mary Comfort Stevens -- Nashville, Tennessee
Mary has been a volunteer for RIF for 15 years.   An avid reader, Mary belongs to several book clubs, one of which is devoted to reading children’s literature.  Mary began selecting books for distribution eight years ago and has continued to order the books, unpack shipments and organize them by grade level to make it easier for the volunteers to distribute them to students.  The Book ‘em RIF Nashville program distributes five books to each of the nearly 1,500 elementary school children each year, totaling 7,300 free books given to students.  The schools in the program have at least 65% of their students qualifying for free or reduced lunch programs.  Mary recruits new volunteers each year, raises money for RIF, and serves on the Board of Directors for Book’em to represent children impacted by the program.

The 2011 Anne Hazard Richardson RIF Volunteer of the Year Awards are presented by Macy's, RIF's lead partner for volunteer engagement. Since 2004, Macy's customers have helped raise more than $16 million dollars for RIF to support local RIF programs, RIF's Multicultural Literacy Campaign, and other literacy initiatives.

“Macy’s is proud to partner with RIF and thrilled to see the remarkable work that volunteers are doing in communities across the country,” said Robin Reibel, Group Vice President for Cause Marketing and Media Relations for Macy’s. “As a company, we are committed to giving back and are proud to honor these volunteers, who are truly making a difference in their communities by encouraging more children to become lifelong readers.”

The 2011 VOYAs, and their nominators, will be recognized during RIF's Gift of Reading Gala in Washington on May 25.

For more information about RIF and the Volunteer of the Year Awards, visit www.rif.org/voya.

About RIF
Reading Is Fundamental, Inc. (RIF), founded in 1966, motivates children to read by working with them, their parents, and community members to make reading a fun and beneficial part of everyday life. RIF’s highest priority is reaching underserved children from birth to age 8. Through community volunteers in every state and U.S. territory, RIF provided 4 million children with 15 million new, free books and literacy resources last year. For more information and to access reading resources, visit RIF’s website at www.rif.org.

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Reading Is Fundamental Selects 2011 Volunteer of the Year Award Winners