GTE Boosts Literacy Effort with New Fundraising Charity, Customer Bill Check-Off Program

"Check Into Literacy!" program has potential to generate millions of dollars annually to promote U.S. literacy

WASHINGTON - GTE today opened a new chapter in its long-standing commitment to literacy by announcing the creation of a new public charity and the launch of an aggressive new nationwide fundraising program.

The nationwide fundraising effort, called "Check Into Literacy!", will enable all GTE customers to donate $1 per month to support literacy by checking a box on the payment remittance slips in their monthly GTE bills. Once customers have checked the box, GTE will include the $1 donation on each monthly bill as a line item. The program starts November 1 for most of GTE's 16 million local telephone customers across the country. GTE's wireless and long distance customers will have the check-off donation option available to them early in 2000.

Additionally, starting December 1, anyone with Internet access can click on to GTE Directories' SuperPages.com website and make a donation to support literacy via the World Wide Web.

All funds collected through "Check Into Literacy!" and GTE SuperPages.com will go to GTE Reads, a newly established public charity. Those funds will, in turn, be distributed back to the local communities in which they were collected via programs of qualified local and national literacy organizations.

"GTE has been a strong supporter of literacy in the United States for almost a decade," said GTE Chairman Charles R. Lee. "It is a national focus for us. Today we are sealing our commitment to this effort by announcing the creation of GTE Reads and the launch of our national fundraising effort, 'Check Into Literacy!'.

"GTE has long believed that the ability to read, write, and communicate is the foundation for success in life. Our communities are only as strong as that foundation. That is why we are singularly committed to making literacy programs more available across America," said Lee.

Joining GTE today in announcing the program were U.S. Department of Education Assistant Secretary G. Mario Moreno, Congressman Bill Goodling (R-Pa.), Communications Workers of America President Morton Bahr, and Andrew Hartman, director of the National Institute for Literacy.

Also attending today's announcement was Ms. Chris Calcinari, a resident of California whose efforts to improve her own reading skills have inspired a new children's book, "Read to Me, Grandma" commissioned by GTE and written and illustrated by Peter and Cheryl Barnes.

"The potential for this program is enormous," Lee said. "Millions of our telephone customers will receive bills with the check-off option beginning next week. And each one of those subscribers has a chance to become a champion for literacy. We expect to raise about $13 million for U.S. literacy programs in the first full year of the program."

GTE is one of the first national companies, and perhaps the first telecommunications company, to support a charitable cause through its billing system and online service. Along with its customers, GTE will contribute $1 million to this cause in addition to its yearly contributions to literacy.

"I thank GTE and its employees for their strong support promoting literacy across our country," said U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley. "In order to get children and adults the critical assistance they need to learn to read, it is so important that all parts of communities, including companies, take a leading role. And companies themselves benefit when their future workforce is well-prepared. Indeed, GTE's support of literacy makes them a model of public-private partnership that I challenge other companies to follow."

As part of its long-term partnership with GTE, the Communications Workers of America is planning to work with the company in developing its own Literacy Champions program. "GTE Reads and 'Check Into Literacy!' are great examples of how corporations can use their resources to put something back into our communities," said CWA President Morton Bahr. "This effort is also a credit to the thousands of GTE workers who have contributed their own time and effort to support literacy programs over the years."

The launch of "Check Into Literacy!" continues GTE's long-term commitment to literacy. GTE has relationships with literacy groups including National Institute for Literacy, Reading Is Fundamental, the National Center for Family Literacy, the American Library Association, and the Literacy Volunteers of America. Lucent Technologies and Motorola Corp., are national co-contributors to the GTE Literacy Champions program. Over the last 10 years, GTE has donated both time and funding to a range of national and local literacy groups. In 1998 alone, GTE spent $2.5 million on literacy grants.

About GTE

With 1998 revenues of more than $25 billion, GTE is a leading telecommunications provider with one of the industry's broadest arrays of products and services. In the United States, GTE provides local service in 28 states and wireless service in 18 states, as well as nationwide long-distance, directory, and internetworking services ranging from dial-up Internet access for residential and small-business consumers to Web-based applications for Fortune 500 companies. Outside the United States, the company serves customers on five continents. Additional information about GTE can be obtained at http://www.gte.com.