Literacy Mid-South Announces New Funding, Move to East Memphis

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Literacy Mid-South Announces New Funding, Move to East Memphis

By Scott Caroll
May 22, 2013
Reprinted with permission by the Commercial Appeal 

Literacy Mid-South announced Monday it will provide thousands of dollars in grants to local education groups thanks to a major expense cut.

The nonprofit group will save more than $65,000 by moving from its current offices in Cooper Young to United Methodist Neighborhood Centers at 3000 Walnut Grove in East Memphis. The money will be distributed between three new Literacy Mid-South programs beginning in July.

It will be the first time the group, which was recently accredited by national literacy organization ProLiteracy, has offered grants in its 40-year history.

“We are branching out big time,” said executive director Kevin Dean at a breakfast Monday morning.

Literacy Mid-South has provided financial support to Memphis groups including the South Memphis Alliance, Knowledge Quest and First Book Mid-South in the past.

As part of its new Collaborations Fund, Literacy Mid-South will give $50,000 to initiatives between local education and literacy providers. Participating groups can receive up to $5,000 each.

Literacy Mid-South will distribute $17,500 in funds among Shelby County literacy groups from its Training and Technical Assistance Fund, which is aimed at bolstering other area nonprofit groups focused on reading and writing. The Alliance for Nonprofit Excellence, a Memphis-based group that supports community-minded organizations, will team with Literacy Mid-South in the program.

And with its $15,000 Read Memphis project, Literacy Mid-South will certify churches, government organizations and nonprofit groups to provide pre-literacy GED programs.

“We’re going to pass the savings on to people who really need it,” Dean said of the expenses cut. “And what we want to do is give services to not only people in the community, but the organizations that serve those people. We want to make sure that they’re equipped to serve the general population because sometimes they’re not. Sometimes they’re lacking something, and getting those resources is half the battle.”

About 120,000 adults in the Memphis area read and write at or below a third-grade level, according to Literacy Mid-South.

“Literacy and education can change everything in this city — the graduation rate, talent retention, everything,” Dean said.

The group’s $500,000 annual budget will not change, though Literacy Mid-South hopes to strengthen its financial standing with pop-up retail shops aimed at Memphis book-lovers. In the fall, Literacy Mid-South will open a crafts gallery in area shopping centers featuring works by local artists. In 2014, it plans to open two shops selling T-shirts, novelty items and gifts inspired by literary classics like The Chronicles of Narnia and Alice in Wonderland.

Literacy Mid-South also announced Monday that a publishing company it could not yet identify donated 10,000 books for local summer reading programs.