High Altitude Society column: Literacy Project Luncheon celebrates volunteers, love of reading | VailDaily.com

High Altitude Society column: Literacy Project Luncheon celebrates volunteers, love of reading

Guadalupe Franco, The Literacy Project’s Executive Director Colleen Gray, Director of Educational Services Sloan Munter, Jack Hubbard and Lindsey White enjoy some conversation before presentations begin at the annual luncheon on Thursday at The Sebastian Vail.
Betty Ann Woodland | Special to the Daily |

VAIL — Last week at The Sebastian Vail, a large group of literary giants, meaning that they appreciate and support literacy, gathered together during a luncheon to celebrate The Literacy Project. After an exciting silent auction and mingling, attendees were seated for a delicious luncheon of gazpacho, chicken cucumber salad and apple crostadas. During the meal, there were speakers and presentations including a heartfelt and inspiring talk by author Matt de la Pena, who told the crowd about his unlikely path to writing five novels.

Board member Adina Dean acknowledged and thanked her fellow board members Amy Gornikiewicz, Jane Lowery, Rosie Moreno and Andrew Pohlman for their hard work. Dean continued, “In addition, I would like to honor two others for their outstanding contributions to The Literacy Project for many years who have finished their tenure with us. Thank you, Mike Brown and Michelle Marx.”

Dean also thanked the volunteers “who have worked over 800 hours worth $176,000 in direct volunteer service. Without the volunteers, The Literacy project would not be where it stands today.”

Retired teacher and tutor Carol Gallegos and her student Guadalupe Franco spoke of their experiences together. When they met to start tutoring, Gallegos exclaimed, “I know you! You were in my first-grade class!”

Franco, who is now in middle school, wanted to improve her grades, especially in social studies and language arts.

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“When I retired, I wanted to be connected with kids in some way … this is a very rewarding way to work with the community,” Gallegos said.

Colleen Gray introduced author-speaker Matt de la Pena, who earned a master’s in fine arts degree in creative writing from San Diego State University and now teaches in New York City. De la Pena wove stories of his childhood and, especially, his father, who also graduated from college and teaches.

There was the story of a teacher who once told de la Pena, “You don’t know this, but you are a great writer.”

That stuck with him as he went to college and chose a major.

“The Literacy Project and tutoring is so powerful,” de la Pena said.

His take away message?

“When you give a person a book, you are not just giving them a book; you are giving them a new path in life,” he said.

The Literacy Project Luncheon committee extended its sincere gratitude to sponsors, including Alpine Bank, First Bank, Vail Daily and the Eagle Valley Library District among others. Thanks, too, went out to Cookie Flaum, who donated the beautiful flower arrangements from Petals of Provence.

For more information, visit http://www.literacy projecteaglecounty.org.

Betty Ann Woodland covers social events including fundraisers for nonprofits, galas and soirees of all kinds. She can be reached at highaltitudesociety@vaildaily.com.

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