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$40,000 gift buys Literacy Center some time

News-Sun story leads anonymous donor to step forward to address funding emergency.

David Smiddy was within days of cutting the hours for 70 tutors and their students each week at the Warder Literacy Center when an anonymous donor stepped forward with $40,000.

“Life is full of miracles!” the executive director wrote on the Center’s Facebook page Friday when he announced the donation.

It seemed appropriate that the solution involved reading.

“The donor actually read the story in the newspaper (about the Center’s problems) and called us about it about a week afterwards,” Smiddy said Monday.

The center, Smiddy said, had “a severe cash flow problem.”

The emergency funding “gets us through the rest of this year and a couple of months of next year without having to worry about payroll,” he said.

Smiddy was considering reducing the center’s hours after learning an $18,000 grant that had been passed through the Springfield City Schools was discontinued.

That elimination of that grant — the center’s last government funding — stretched what might have been a more manageable $12,000 shortfall to $30,000.

For the time being, the center will remain open from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. four days a week, hours in which tutors work with about 70 students in three categories.

The largest category is school children lagging behind their peers. The second group includes adults working on basic literacy skills or toward a GED. Third are foreign-born people learning English as a second language.

Smiddy, the center’s only full-time employee, said he delayed releasing the good news for about a month until the Springfield Foundation could work out the details in a way that ensures the donor’s anonymity. The center also has three part-time employees.

Ted Vander Roest, the Foundation’s executive director, said the money “was already in an advised fund” at the Foundation, the kind of fund in which the donor decides the use, “and they chose to give it to literacy.”

Although Vander Roest said the Foundation often contacts potential donors when a funding emergency arises, “we didn’t think we had anyone really interested in literacy.”

Smiddy said the gift is timely, because six years after there were large cuts in literacy funding, the center “is at a minimum.”

“The only way we could do any less is if we moved out of this building into a church basement,” he said.

Smiddy said the center also is grateful for a recent $3,000 check from the Springfield Kiwanis Foundation to support the Teaching Children to Read program and to Springfielders Jim and Nike Lagos for their promise to treat anyone who donates $100 or more to the center to dinner at 6 p.m. Aug. 28 at the Bushnell Building. To make a reservation, call 323-8617.

After “several years of sweating” over funding, “we’re not done,” Smiddy said, “but this gives us a little breather.”

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