Mary Ligon, the director of Leadership Albany, reads a Dr. Seuss book schoolchildren in this March 2010 photo. Leadership Albany is aiming to raise funds which will help Dougherty County families and their children gain access to age-appropriate reading materials.
ALBANY, Ga. — An area organization established for the purpose of identifying and developing leaders in the community needs help nurturing its leaders for the next generation.
Leadership Albany is involved in a literacy program conducted through Ferst Foundation that assists area families in getting books in the hands of their children.
Earlier this year, the organization took full responsibility for the program — meaning that Leadership Albany is now providing for 1,400 children in Dougherty County.
“It is for low-income families that probably do not have age-appropriate reading material,” said Mary Ligon, director of Leadership Albany.
The program starts by the collection of monetary donations. Through the donations, $36 is spent on a child over the course of a year to provide them one book a month.
The Division of Family and Children Services had a role in the program, during which time, Leadership Albany was taking on 400 children for a roughly a three-year period.
When the DFCS contract ended, Leadership Albany took on all the Dougherty children, Ligon said.
The expense to maintain the program is $4,000 a month, which Ligon said is a big burden with the additional 1,000 children to account for.
“We are the sole organization for Dougherty County,” Ligon said. “Procter & Gamble has donated, and so has Wal-Mart. There are many partners that contribute.
“But the significant increase (in children being assisted) is a big jump for them (our partners).”
Now, what once was enough is not getting the job done, so much so that Leadership Albany is looking at not being able to provide books in December.
“We had been fundraising on low-key all along, and things were going smoothly,” Ligon said. “But, our bank balance has dropped significantly. So, we need funds in more quickly and in larger chucks.
“We need to fill the balance back in. Supporting 1,400 children at $4,000 a month eats away at what we have.”
The books, considered to be age-appropriate for the child, are mailed to his or her home address. They are provided from the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.
Keeping a program like this running can help cure some of the ills plaguing Dougherty, officials say.
“We are all about (fighting) poverty and (promoting) preschool literacy,” Ligon said. “Literacy is important for getting out of poverty, and children have got to have age-appropriate books to do that.
“We can help by providing the material.”
Until the donation flow can catch up with demand, the organization will not be able to take any more registrations.
“Before we add any children, we need to support the ones we have,” Ligon said.
Other organizations, such as the Dougherty Rotary Club, have been called to help. Ligon said she would be open to speaking to other clubs or organizations wanting to know more about the project.
According to statistics from the Ferst Foundation website, one in five Georgia children live in poverty. Approximately 61 percent of low-income families do not have a single piece of reading material suitable for a child.
Meanwhile, Georgia maintains the nation’s third-highest rate of high school dropouts. On an annual basis, illiteracy and low-literate workers cost Atlanta $2.6 billion and Georgia businesses $7 billion.
Those wishing to make a contribution can visit www.leadershipalbany.org, or write a check marked for the literacy project and mail it to 2004 Cumberland Lane.