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Henry literacy group gets back on track

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

More than 200 people turned out to witness a rebirth of the local arm of the early-childhood literacy advocacy group.

The Ferst Foundation of Henry County, Inc., raised more than $10,000 during its third annual spring luncheon, held recently at the Merle Manders Conference Center in Stockbridge.

The foundation was able to raise enough money to restart book deliveries for hundreds of children, according to Mike Griffin, chairman of Ferst Foundation of Henry County.

Griffin said roughly $6,700 of the money raised, after expenses, will go toward purchasing a year's worth of books for 500 children in Henry County.

The children, from birth to 5 years old, Griffin said, are targets of the foundation's campaign to promote early-childhood literacy. The foundation pays for age-appropriate books which are sent -- one each month, free of charge -- to the area's preschool children, who are registered in the program.

He said it costs $36 to support one child for an entire year with books, acquired through Dolly Parton's Imagination Library Literacy Program.

Griffin said he anticipates that books will begin showing up at the homes of program participants as soon as July, following a year-long hiatus by the foundation.

The organization froze book deliveries in April 2009 as a result of the economic recession, and a sharp drop in grant funding. At the time, the foundation's enrollment had grown to about 2,000 infants and toddlers -- since its 2005 inception, he said.

The foundation will begin deliveries again in July, starting with the oldest children on its roll. "We're trying to match the number of children with our resources," said Griffin.

He called the foundation's most recent fund-raiser a success that will help place it on firm ground to continue the program for Henry County's young readers. The fund-raiser featured guest speaker Monica Pearson, news anchor at Channel 2, WSB-TV.

"WSB-TV's Monica Pearson was everything we had hoped for and more," Griffin wrote to members of the foundation, following the luncheon. "Not only was her talk informative and motivating, her personality was so engaging. She was gracious toward everyone, and was so generous with her time and attention.

"We had a nice event," he added. "[But] we wanted to get back to 1,000 children and sustain that."

The foundation chairman said residents can get involved by making individual $36 donations, or becoming "Henry Hundred" donors, by committing to donating $100 per year for three years.

"Our impact on childhood reading readiness continues," Griffin said. "We've given over 50,000 books to local children the last four years [... and] that positive heritage will continue.

"We are confirmed for the June book order for 500 [books to] the oldest children on our registration list," he added. "We will add 100 children per month 'til we top out at 1,000."

Griffin said the foundation's next major fund-raiser will be held this fall, when the organization plans to host its Second Annual Henry Has Talent event. To learn more, visit www.henryferst.com.