Verizon Honors North Idaho Nonprofits for Their Commitment to Improving Literacy Rates

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho -- Projects to improve literacy skills for Idahoans and support the lagging regional economy received a total of $35,000 in grants today from Verizon.

Seven nonprofit organizations from Coeur d'Alene, Moscow and Sandpoint received literacy grants totaling $30,000 during a Verizon-sponsored conference here.

An additional $5,000 was awarded to the Festival at Sandpoint, an annual summer series of concerts and other cultural activities that provide a major economic boost to local communities in Bonner County and other parts of North Idaho.

Funding for the grants was provided by Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon Communications, and the company's Check Into Literacy program.

The program is funded by voluntary contributions from Verizon customers who give $1 per month to literacy by checking off a box on their monthly phone bill. Of the $30,000 in literacy grants, $5,175 came from Verizon's Idaho customers who participated in the Check Into Literacy initiative.

"We want to provide an economic stimulus through our foundation-giving that addresses the high unemployment and economic uncertainty facing our region," said John Gustafson, Verizon external affairs director for the Northwest. "We sought proposals that would help improve literacy rates by creating a more educated and prepared work force."

Recipients of Verizon Foundation grants include:

  • Children's Village, Coeur d'Alene, will apply a $5,000 grant to its Learning For Life program, which serves youth with serious emotional and behavioral problems. Specifically, the grant will help purchase a new computer, science equipment, maps, textbooks and other supplies. One of the primary goals of Learning For Life is to help students succeed by raising their basic skill levels in reading, math, writing and comprehension. Learning For Life is part of Children Village's Village Academy.

  • Employees Combined Humanitarian Organization (ECHO), Sandpoint, will use a $2,500 grant for the Arts, Authors & Us and 4-H programs in Bonner, Boundary and Pend Oreille (Wash.) counties. Arts, Authors & Us teaches students the fundamentals of reading, listening and creativity. In addition, funding for 4-H programs provides for the purchase of new books and materials to help teach responsibility. ECHO was founded in 1978 by employees of GTE, Verizon's predecessor company. Current Verizon employees continue to manage and fund the organization through personal donations.

  • Help Encourage A Reader Today (HEART), Coeur d'Alene, will use $7,500 to increase literacy skills for at-risk children and develop a positive, one-on-one relationship with a caring adult. The grant included $5,175 donated by Idaho customers through Verizon's Check Into Literacy program. HEART matches one adult reading tutor with two at-risk students during the school year. The adult reads one-on-one with each child for 30 minutes each week. HEART also provides each student with two free books per month. HEART was founded by Verizon in 1998 in partnership with the Coeur d'Alene School District.

  • Washington Elementary School, Sandpoint, will use a $5,000 grant for its School/Home Literacy Connection project. It will help purchase guided reading books that are used by teachers in kindergarten through 3rd grade classrooms and then sent home so parents can continue to help children improve their reading skills. The program's goals are to increase student reading fluency, reinforce skills taught at school, and involve parents in their child's reading progress. Washington Elementary School is part of the Lake Pend Oreille School District.

  • Latah County Adult Literacy Council, Moscow, will use a $3,000 grant to underwrite a tutor coordinator position, purchase computers and learning software, and build a Literacy Council Web site. These activities will help support the council's goal to expand its literacy services to more areas beyond Moscow. The council provides one-on-one tutoring for adults who seek to improve their basic skills in reading, writing and math, including English language learners. The program also provides support for individuals studying for their General Equivalency Diploma.

  • Rendezvous for Kids in Moscow will use a $5,000 grant to support literacy development by providing children with exposure to storytelling, creative writing and the dramatic arts. Specifically, the grant will enable the summer festival to bring Kenneth Thomasma, a nationally celebrated author of Native American juvenile fiction books, as a special workshop facilitator. Thomasma will lead an interactive writing workshop in which each child will prepare a unique literary composition. In addition, the young authors will publish their works as part of another workshop on creative book design and binding.

  • The Academy of Northwest Writers & Publishers, Sandpoint, will use a $2,000 grant to help underwrite its 2004 Lost Horse Writers' Conference, a literary celebration bringing together readers, scholars, and writers for three days of intensive creative writing workshops. The Verizon grant will support free workshops for Bonner County students in grades 3-12. The conference will also include readings by regionally and nationally distinguished writers, lectures, panel discussions, book signings, and other activities. The program is held each year in conjunction with the Sandpoint Library, Lake Pend Oreille School District and select children's writers.

  • The Festival at Sandpoint -- The festival committee will use its $5,000 grant to help underwrite its 21st annual summer concert series and cultural program. The August event annually draws music lovers from a wide geographic area, generating an estimated $2.5 million annually for local economies in north Idaho. The festival provides world-class entertainment in classical, jazz, pop, folk, country and world music. It also offers several educational programs, including a take-home study guide and an Instrument Petting Zoo, which enables youth to experiment with instruments. The 5th Grade Music Outreach Program provides interactive workshops for every 5th grade classroom in Bonner and Boundary counties.

Verizon is committed to being America's literacy champion. The company is conducting a national campaign to increase community awareness and to generate additional funding and support of literacy programs for adults, children and families. Working under the banner of Verizon Reads, a private charity, the award-winning philanthropy program reaches out to the nearly 40 million Americans who have low literacy skills. For more information on Verizon Reads, visit www.VerizonReads.net. For help with literacy, call the National Institute for Literacy toll-free at 1-866-772-READ.

A Fortune 10 company, 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 136.6 million access line equivalents and 33.3 million Verizon Wireless customers. Verizon is the third-largest long-distance carrier for U.S. consumers, with 13.2 million long-distance lines, and the company is also the largest directory publisher in the world, as measured by directory titles and circulation. With approximately $67 billion in annual revenues and 227,000 employees, Verizon's global presence extends to the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com.