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Reading Is Fundamental's 2009 Volunteer of the Year Award Recipients Involve Communities in Literacy Efforts

Volunteers in Alabama, Kentucky, and California recognized

WASHINGTON, April 22, 2009—Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), the nation's oldest and largest children and families' literacy nonprofit organization, announced its three recipients of the 2009 Anne Hazard Richardson RIF Volunteer of the Year Award (VOYA), this year sponsored by Macy's.

Volunteers are the backbone of RIF programs in communities across America. RIF is proud to recognize the following for their dedication and service as truly outstanding RIF volunteers: Jalonda Smith of the Volunteer Center of Morgan County in Decatur, Ala.; Elrene "Elke" Davis of the Estill County Schools in Irvine, Ky.; and Barbara Sovereign of the Delta Lambda chapter (Monterey, Calif.) of the Delta Kappa Gamma Society International.

"In communities across the country, many thousands of individuals support free book distributions and reading motivation events in RIF programs," said Carol H. Rasco, RIF president and CEO. "Volunteer RIF coordinators, such as the ones we recognize today, help mobilize these communities in support of children's literacy."

Jalonda Smith-Decatur, Ala.
Through the Volunteer Center of Morgan County, over a thousand children at three elementary schools are able to choose free RIF books. Smith became a parent volunteer at Falkville Elementary School when her daughter was in second grade, as she enjoyed seeing students learning to read and choosing their own books. She has since volunteered with RIF for the past six years, enthusiastically planning book distributions, recruiting volunteers, fundraising, and informing the community about upcoming RIF book distributions. Falkville Elementary is located in an underserved area and is a rural school; many students in the school had never owned a book until the arrival of the RIF program.

Elrene "Elke" Davis-Irvine, Ky.
Thanks to the Estill County Board of Education RIF program, more than 1,800 students are able to choose a variety of books to add to their home libraries. They also take part in reading motivation events that include guest readers, such as Congressman Ben Chandler. Davis has volunteered with this program for 15 years, making the training and empowerment of community volunteers a continuous and ongoing part of the program. She has also secured additional grants to extend RIF activities. Estill County is a poor, rural county in the Appalachian Mountains with 65 percent of children receiving free or reduced meals. Many students lack the opportunity or resources to travel outside the county, but are encouraged by Davis and others to spend quality time in the "World of Books" from their own home library.

Barbara Sovereign-Monterey, Calif.
Delta Lambda, the local chapter of the professional women educators' group, Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, works with RIF as the chapter's main literacy project. As a Delta Lambda member, Sovereign has been a RIF coordinator for 10 years; during which time the program has changed drastically. What began as a small group of retired teachers going to a few schools has grown to about 75 volunteers visiting six schools, three times a year. Almost 85% of the students in these schools qualify for free and reduced lunch. Over 1900 students get to hear good literature read to them and choose a book for their own. Sovereign has kept the program going through her steadfast fundraising and recruitment of volunteers.

This year's honorees continue a tradition of more than 40 years of developing new and innovative ways to serve children and parents in the RIF programs of their respective communities.

The 2009 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 over seven million dollars for RIF to support local RIF programs, RIF's Multicultural Literacy Campaign, and other literacy initiatives.

"Giving back is one of Macy's core values," said Nathan Shore, director of cause marketing for Macy's. "We are proud to partner with RIF to recognize the inspiring work of RIF coordinators and volunteers who donate their time, talents, and energy to motivate children to read."

The 2009 VOYAs, and their nominators, will be recognized during RIF's Gift of Reading Awards Gala in Washington on June 2, 2009. In addition, Macy's will be presented with the Legacy of Literacy Award to recognize the significant impact that it has made on RIF's capacity to further its vision of a more literate America.

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

 
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 provides 4.5 million children with 16 million new, free books and literacy resources each year. For more information and to access reading resources, visit RIF's website at www.rif.org.

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Reading Is Fundamental's 2009 Volunteer of the Year Award Recipients Involve Communities in Literacy Efforts