NeighborWorks Week event visits Ames
NeighborWorks Week event highlights importance of proficient reading at early age
AMES, IA — Approximately 60 individuals invested in early childhood reading education were in attendance at this year’s NeighborWorks Week event, a celebration of accomplishments of the NeighborWorks America network. Community Housing Initiatives, Inc. (CHI) and Raising Readers in Story County partnered to host “NeighborWorks in Ames: Grade Level Reading,” a program focused on the issue of reading proficiently by the end of third grade.” The event was held on June 7 at Oakwood Road Church in Ames.
The evening featured literacy goals for students, a collaboration summary between Raising Readers and CHI, and Raising Readers highlights. Presenters included Ames Superintendent Dr. Tim Taylor and CHI Resident Services Director Malai Amfahr. Special Guest Charles Bruner, executive director of the Child and Family Policy Center, concluded the program by sharing his perspective on the importance of reading and strengthening neighborhoods.
“I was excited to see so many people attend the NeighborWorks Week event,” said Dr. Tim Taylor. “I hope those in attendance continue to work for kids and the community, and that they were energized or re-energized as a result. I know many more volunteers than those who attended also do marvelous things for the community, and I hope it continues to grow.”
This year, CHI chose to celebrate NeighborWorks in Ames because of its long-standing partnership with Raising Readers. In 2008, Raising Readers received grant funding to install “reading corners” in strategic locations across Ames as part of its community outreach. Eastwood Apartments, a 60-unit family neighborhood, was selected as one of the locations. The organizations have continued to work together to promote literacy of resident children. Raising Readers aims to improve language and literacy development in children from birth to age 8 and nurture healthy parent-child relationships.
“This NeighborWorks Week event was a wonderful celebration of the collaboration between Raising Readers and Community Housing Initiatives,” said Carol Elbert, president of Raising Readers. “It’s a special pleasure to bring people together who care about children and who support literacy efforts in our community. We learn from each other and together can accomplish more than any of us could do individually.”
Those thoughts were also echoed by Diane Patrick, relationship manager and management consultant with NeighborWorks America. Patrick traveled from Kansas City to attend the event.
“The event underscored the importance of literacy,” Patrick said. “Reading at a young age, to achieve grade level or higher by third grade is critical to the student’s success in future learning, vocation, college and beyond. Achieving literacy in early grade school is a powerful predictor of success in future life, and is truly central to any anti-poverty strategy.”
As NeighborWorks Week embraces volunteerism, the evening included a special award presentation for Judy Dahlke, volunteer coordinator of Raising Readers. Malai Amfahr and two Eastwood Apartment children honored Dahlke with the “Exceptional Volunteer 2012” award.
“Judy is worthy of this special recognition as an exceptional volunteer because she is so giving and inspiring to the children who she works with during programs,” Amfahr said. “Her creativity, consistency and optimism have been very influential in the way we design programs. We have a focused approach in implementing programs that focus primarily on the development of literacy skills for children. This has made a tremendous impact on the children participating in programs, as they now are excited about reading and books in a positive way.”
This marks the third annual NeighborWorks Week event for CHI in Iowa. In 2010, approximately 50 volunteers helped restore Time Check Park, an area in Cedar Rapids that was devastated by floodwaters in 2008. Numerous teams planted decorative flowering trees, painted and repainted fences and improved the overall grounds of the popular park. In 2011, more than 40 volunteers helped beautify St. Vincent de Paul, a local non-profit located along 6th Avenue on Des Moines’ north side.
This is the 29th annual NeighborWorks Week event, as NeighborWorks organizations across the country annually mobilize tens of thousands of business people, residents and government officials in a week of neighborhood change and awareness. Organizations will rehab and repair homes, paint and landscape properties, conduct neighborhood tours, recognize successful partnerships and host a number of events that educate, train and inform. In 2011, more than 4,700 families benefited from the week’s activities nationwide.
“NeighborWorks Week is a perfect time to focus on all things that strengthen communities and help families,” Patrick said. “The ‘I Think I can’ NeighborWorks Week event in Ames was an inspiring event focused on the power of partnership between housing and community development and literacy initiatives. It focused on long term children’s success in life through learning to read, and how this lifelong skill can be enhanced by partnerships that provide high quality affordable housing and improving literacy skills for youth.”
For Immediate Release: June 11, 2012
Contact: Matt Miller