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Literacy group needs new location

Teri Vance
tvance@nevadaappeal.com
Shannon Litz/Nevada AppealSharon McCloskey talks about helping people learn to read at the Carson City Literacy Volunteers office on Wednesday while Jan Whitemore listens.
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Over the 20 years Sharon McCloskey has served as a tutor for the Literacy Volunteers of Carson City, she has helped countless residents learn to read.

“It’s so gratifying knowing what you are doing is really changing lives,” said McCloskey, the training coordinator for the nonprofit organization. “It opens up so many possibilities for them.”

However, she’s worried it may be more difficult in the future because the program is being displaced from its home at the State Library and Archives.

The volunteers have until Feb. 15 to find a new location.

“We realize in these times people in the office and real estate business are having tough times themselves,” she said, “but we really hope someone will be willing to offer us some space so we can tutor.”

Their current room is 400 square feet, and they’re looking for something a little bigger, around 500 or 600 square feet, to house their materials and tutoring stations.

Jan Whitemore, director of Carson City Literacy Volunteers, said the ideal location would be one with open access to the public, so each tutor and student would not need to be issued a key.

She said tutors could meet with students in public places, like the library or a coffee house, but the noise can be distracting and diminishes privacy.

“We’re completely confidential,” she said. “It’s one of those things that’s so embarrassing to people. They just don’t want to admit it. It’s OK if you’re not good at math, but reading? Everyone can read.”

Whitemore said they see students ranging from industrial workers to business officials to immigrants, and across all socioeconomic boundaries.

McCloskey said she became involved with the organization when, during the course of her job as a computer programmer, she saw a client hand a stack of forms to a new employee.

She said the man hesitated, patted his pocket, and asked if he could take the forms home to fill out as he had forgotten his glasses.

McCloskey said she realized he couldn’t read well enough to fill out the forms and was just making an excuse.

“The thing that really got to me was there was this intelligence in his eyes that would just be trapped if he couldn’t read or write,” she said. “I firmly believe this world can use all of the intelligence it can get. I took it as a sign that I needed to get involved.”

She said now is a perfect time for the unemployed to learn to read or to volunteer as a tutor.

“We always have a waiting list,” she said.

And, most of all, she said, they need a place to meet so the program, which receives no federal or state aid, can continue.

“Every time I come into this office and see a tutor and student, their heads bent over a set of books, honestly, it brings tears to my eyes,” she said. “To see one human being helping another is so moving.”

The Literacy Volunteers of Carson City have about 25 students on a waiting list. The next training session for tutors will be the week of Jan. 18. To volunteer or for more information about the program, call Whitemore at (775) 885-1010.