Verizon Employees Collect Books To Give to Portsmouth Elementary Schools

PORTSMOUTH, Va. -- Portsmouth's school children may soon have access to some 1,500 new books, thanks to a donation by the Consortium of Information and Telecommunications Executives (CITE), a Verizon-sponsored employee support group.

The effort, which was announced today in a joint news conference by Verizon and CITE at Mount Hermon Elementary School, supports Gov. Mark R. Warner's Partnership for Achieving Successful Schools (PASS) and the Virginia Literacy Foundation.

The books will be collected this weekend from the 1,800 Verizon employees attending the 19th annual CITE conference in Norfolk. CITE will donate the books to those elementary schools in the City of Portsmouth that have had difficulty the last two years in meeting the state's SOLs (Standards of Learning) in English and math. Warner has designated these schools as PASS Priority Schools. They will receive specialized academic assistance, as well as support from business and community partners.

Wally Amos, founder of Famous Amos Cookies, also was on hand to lend his support to the Verizon/CITE project. Amos, who has served as a Verizon Literacy Champion, has a tremendous passion for literacy and has hosted more than 50 episodes of programs for public TV on adult literacy.

Amos, who earned a high-school graduate equivalency diploma while in the Air Force, often takes time during public appearances to encourage children to learn to read. Following today's news conference, he read a book to a group of youngsters from the school and talked to them about the importance of good reading skills and getting a quality education.

Verizon Literacy Champions are part of the company's signature philanthropy program -- Verizon Reads -- which works to create awareness and raise funds to support literacy. Literacy Champions include celebrities across the country who donate their image and time to help bring attention to the critical problem of low literacy in the U.S. and to raise funds for the issue.

"I'm delighted CITE has embraced an incredibly worthwhile project, and that 'Famous Amos' has joined forces with Verizon again for this event," said Eileen Odum, Verizon's president of national operations. "Our company is committed to support literacy initiatives through our Verizon Reads program, not only in Portsmouth, but also in communities we serve throughout the nation. We know that a literate community means better jobs and higher overall employability."

Odum encouraged other businesses to join with Verizon and CITE in providing direct support to literacy efforts and schools.

"Like Verizon, we have a long-standing commitment to education," said David France, president of CITE. "CITE already has awarded nearly $1 million in scholarships to deserving, college-bound students across the country. CITE is delighted that we can donate these books and open up a new world of learning opportunities for the young people of Portsmouth."

Verizon called upon its literacy partner, the Virginia Literacy Foundation, to help coordinate this gift of books.

"When Verizon approached us about this generous donation, I felt it was a natural to connect with Gov. Warner's PASS initiative in the Portsmouth public schools, " said Mark Emblidge, executive director of the Virginia Literacy Foundation. The foundation, founded in 1987, is the nation's premiere literacy initiative. Its mission is to increase literacy in Virginia.

"The partnership with Verizon and the PASS Schools in Portsmouth is a perfect example of how business can step up to the plate to ensure that our children are academically well equipped to become productive members of Virginia's workforce in the future," said Virginia Secretary of Education Belle Wheelan.

CITE is one of the most widely recognized employee resource groups in Verizon. The organization strives to raise the level of consciousness of all employees with regard to minority concerns, and advance the professional development and networking opportunities of African-American and other minority employees of Verizon. CITE, a nonprofit organization, provides employee advocacy and serves as a resource for the corporation and community. CITE makes a positive impact by hosting annual conferences, providing scholarships to needy students and implementing training and development programs.

Through Verizon Reads the company 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 135.1 million access line equivalents and 30.3 million Verizon Wireless customers. Verizon is also the largest directory publisher in the world. With more than $67 billion in annual revenues and approximately 241,000 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.