Photo by Heather Middleton
By Johnny Jackson
More than 170 children will be able to participate in a childhood literacy program, thanks to the fund-raising efforts of the Ferst Foundation of Henry County, Inc.
"We're one big reading readiness program," said Mike Griffin, chairman of the Ferst Foundation of Henry County.
The foundation, a local affiliate of the Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy, in Madison, Ga., raised more than $6,200, during its Fourth Annual Ferst Henry Spring Luncheon Fund-raiser on April 26.
Griffin said the money collected will go to support the free books program for local preschoolers from Dolly Parton's Imagination Library.
He said the program offers a book a month to the children to help them learn to read.
"The books are free to the children, but they are not free," he added. "We have to raise $36 to send 12 age-appropriate, hard-back books to local children, [from] birth, to age five."
Griffin said the fund-raiser enabled the group to serve the literacy needs of 172 children in Henry County. He said several people pledged $100, and were designated as "Henry Hundred" donors.
Since 2005, the organization has sent more than 67,000 books to roughly 3,300 children, and it currently serves 925 children in Henry County.
"It is the background necessary to prepare children to become lifelong readers," Griffin said. "They come to kindergarten having a greater familiarity with reading, and, hopefully, with a love of reading."
The Ferst Foundation of Henry County chairman calls the latest fund-raiser a success, as more than 160 supporters attended this week's luncheon at the Merle Manders Conference Center, in Stockbridge.
Tables, decorated in the theme of popular children's books, were sponsored by individuals, groups and local businesses, Griffin said.
The luncheon included a poetry recitation by Regan Troy, a third-grader at East Lake Elementary School, in McDonough, and songs by Bryana Salza, an eighth-grader at Luella Middle School, in Locust Grove.
Salza won the 2010 "Henry Has Talent" show fund-raiser, sponsored by the Ferst Foundation of Henry County.
Former educator, Ted Key, was the luncheon's keynote speaker. He spent 33 of his 50 years in education, in the Clayton County School System, where he was twice selected as teacher of the year.
"Teachers like Ted Key are remembered for the critical role they played in mentoring, and guiding, young lives -- not just for teaching what is in the curriculum," said Griffin.
Key, a former middle-grades history teacher, and an inductee into the Georgia Teacher Hall of Fame, spoke on, "The Civil War in Georgia."
This year is the 150th anniversary of the start of that war.
"Understanding the past is important in understanding how we got where we are today," said Griffin, "and the written word is the link back to understanding our heritage."
Griffin said the next large Ferst fund-raising effort, "Henry Has Talent," is scheduled to be held in October. To learn more, visit the Ferst Foundation web site at www.ferstfoundation.org.