Literacy Tops the Leader Board at Verizon Classic

TAMPA, Fla. -- One of the 78 Senior PGA tour golfers who will tee up in the Verizon Classic this Friday will leave the course Sunday as the tournament champion. Yet thousands of children and adults will be the real winners when proceeds from the event are dispersed to worthy literacy programs throughout the west central Florida region this year.

The Verizon Classic has raised $4.5 million for Bay area charities through the years. Since 1999, all proceeds from the tournament have benefited literacy programs in the Tampa Bay area, particularly the work of Tampa Bay Reads. This nonprofit group was organized and has been supported by Verizon through its Verizon Reads program to increase awareness of literacy as a significant social issue and to encourage collaboration between literacy providers in the region.

Verizon Reads is the company's signature program for increasing community and corporate awareness of the problems of low literacy, raising funds, encouraging collaboration among literacy providers and engaging employees in supporting literacy programs.

Last year's tournament generated $370,000 for Tampa Bay Reads that was distributed to 15 literacy programs in the region. Tampa Bay Reads has provided nearly $1 million to 38 literacy programs, serving 45,000 children and adults since 1999.

"One of the reasons Verizon led in the creation of Tampa Bay Reads was to have a focal point that will heighten awareness of the cause of literacy in our seven-county region," said John Blanchard, president, southeast region, Verizon. "Tampa Bay Reads also is a central collection point for fund-raising efforts such as the Verizon Classic."

According to the National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS), 92 million adults in the United States -- almost 48 percent of the population -- have very low or low literacy skills. Reading and writing at these levels makes it difficult to earn a living wage and turns everyday tasks into extraordinary challenges. Most experts also believe the pervasiveness and negative impact of low literacy is not as widely recognized as it should be, particularly in the United States, which prides itself on providing universal education for its citizens.

Verizon Reads builds on a decade of support for the cause of literacy by GTE -- one of Verizon's predecessor companies. The program is dedicated to the fight for a more literate America through meaningful programs that create awareness, raise funds and encourage collaboration among literacy providers. These programs include:

  • Grants. Verizon Foundation donated more than $17 million nationally to nonprofit organizations involved with literacy in 2001, with nearly $1 million donated in Florida alone.

  • Verizon Literacy Champions. Through the Literacy Champions program, Verizon partners with celebrities in communities nationwide to give literacy a familiar face, bring attention to a critical issue and raise awareness and funds for the cause of literacy. Verizon Literacy Champions include Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Vanna White of "Wheel of Fortune" TV fame, New York Giants running back Tiki Barber and his twin brother, Tampa Bay Buccaneer All-Pro defensive back Ronde Barber.

  • Verizon Literacy Network. The Verizon Literacy Network (www.verizonreads.net) is a Web site that provides continuous and instant access to a variety of critical resources that promote a more literate America. The Verizon Literacy Network marks the first time a Web site has linked charitable, public and private resources nationwide to focus on a single societal issue. Resources on the Verizon Literacy Network include educational information on literacy, local and national organizations providing assistance, literacy volunteer opportunities, distance learning courses and more.

  • Check in to Literacy. The Verizon "Check in to Literacy" program encourages Verizon customers to support literacy by allowing them to donate $1 per month of their phone bill to literacy programs in their community.

  • Employee Volunteer Programs. Verizon encourages employees to become involved with the issue of literacy through efforts such as the company's "Season's Readings" campaign last December. During the holiday campaign, Verizon employees from some 300 company locations donated 68,000 books and pledged they would read more than 15,000 hours to children and adults during the holidays and throughout this year.

Verizon -- America's Literacy Champion

Through its signature program, Verizon Reads, the company works to increase community and corporate awareness of the insidious effects of low literacy on individuals and communities. Verizon raises funds, encourages collaboration among literacy providers and promotes employee volunteerism in support of literacy programs around the country. Visit www.verizonreads.net to learn more about Verizon's commitment to literacy.

Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) is one of the world's leading providers of communications services. Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States, with 132.1 million access line equivalents and 29.4 million wireless customers. Verizon is also the largest directory publisher in the world. A Fortune 10 company with more than $67 billion in annual revenues and approximately 247,000 employees, Verizon's global presence extends to more than 40 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com.