Verizon Invests $111,000 to Launch 'Hawaii Reads' Program in Support of Statewide Literacy Agencies

HONOLULU -- Verizon Communications and Hawaii social services agency ALU LIKE, Inc., today announced the formation of Hawaii Reads, a program that will help improve literacy throughout Hawaii.

The new statewide literacy program, introduced at Washington Place before an audience of 180 community leaders in the areas of literacy, education, government, labor and private industry, will receive $111,000 in start-up funding from Verizon.

The funding to ALU LIKE includes a $75,000 grant made by Verizon Foundation, the company's philanthropic arm, and $36,380 collected by Verizon Reads, a program that allows Verizon customers to check off a contribution of $1 monthly on their telephone bills.

The Verizon Reads portion of seed money represents the first distribution to literacy organizations in Hawaii since the company's "Check Into Literacy" program began in November 1999. Verizon Foundation has pledged additional support to ALU LIKE later this year.

Hawaii Reads will be managed by Susan Berg from the office of the Native Hawaiian Library, a unit of ALU LIKE, and will support the total state population.

ALU LIKE Chief Executive Officer Lulani Arquette called Hawaii Reads a multifunctional program that supports the needs of literacy agencies and promotes intergenerational reading in Hawaii.

"We are grateful to Verizon for its leadership in supporting the cause of literacy in Hawaii for many years," Arquette said. "Much work remains to be done, but Verizon has already made a significant investment to improve education and economic development in Hawaii now and in the future."

"Hawaii Reads provides a forum for the exchange of ideas and the development of cooperative efforts," Arquette said. "We will work with government, labor and education leaders to help shape the literacy agenda in the legislature and promote the undertaking of an up-to-date statewide needs assessment."

A 1989 survey conducted by The Governor's Council for Literacy (since closed) revealed that about 20 percent of Hawaii's adult population have reading skills below the level required to earn a living wage. Since that is the most recent data available, many literacy professionals believe that a comprehensive needs assessment is required to fully understand the extent and nature of literacy problems, including the teaching of English as a second language to immigrants, and provide coordinated solutions.

First Lady Vicky Cayetano and Warren Haruki, president of Verizon Hawaii, will serve as co-chairs of Hawaii Reads. "We are fortunate that there are numerous organizations throughout the islands serving literacy and lifelong learning needs," said Mrs. Cayetano. "Some have great experience and literacy is their core mission, while others are in the beginning stages, or literacy is an adjunct to their main business. Hawaii Reads will promote intergenerational reading and facilitate the sharing of ideas and expertise among all the organizations."

In 2001, Verizon Foundation awarded $105,000 to Hawaii organizations to improve literacy. Verizon Foundation has already provided another $105,000 in literacy-related grants this year, in addition to today's award to ALU LIKE.

"That's a lot of money for one company to invest, but the need is great," Haruki said. "Ensuring that our young people and adults are literate is essential to raising everyone's standard of living and improving the quality of life in our communities.

"Literate people generally become more involved in their communities, help their children learn, are more informed consumers, and participate more fully in America's democracy," Haruki said.

Bob Brand, Verizon vice president for Public Affairs, said the company intends to commit more than $17 million -- about one fourth of the annual Verizon Foundation budget -- to literacy causes nationwide this year. He said the Verizon "Check Into Literacy" program enables the company's 54 million customers to help in funding literacy programs.

Verizon last year created an online literacy directory on its Web site -- www.verizonreads.net -- in affiliation with the U.S. Department of Education and the National Center for Family Literacy. By entering city and state information, viewers can access regional literacy providers specific to their area.

Verizon Foundation

Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon Communications, is committed to helping Verizon employees, customers and the communities in which they work and live make progress every day. The foundation supports a variety of programs that focus on improving basic and computer literacy, bridging the digital divide, enriching communities through technology and creating a skilled work force. The foundation promotes partnerships in technology with organizations serving the needs of diverse communities, people with disabilities, and the economically and socially disadvantaged. For more information on the foundation, visit www.verizon.com/foundation on the Internet.

Verizon Communications

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. 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.

ALU LIKE, Incorporated

ALU LIKE, Incorporated is a private, statewide, multi-service, community-based, non-profit agency that was established in 1975 to assist Native Hawaiians to improve their social and economic conditions. ALU LIKE, Inc. administers 19 different programs providing solutions to needs in the Native Hawaiian community.