TEXARKANA -- The Literacy Council of Bowie and Miller Counties is moving full speed ahead with a transition into a larger office space and the addition of several new community education programs, including one tailored to families in crisis.
The additions come after a year when the COVID-19 pandemic made progress difficult, especially fundraising, Executive Director Jenny Walker said in an interview for the Texarkana Gazette podcast "On the Line."
"The Literacy Council was already kind of struggling a little bit before COVID ever hit. And so it really knocked the knock the breath out of us. And there was a moment where we were just not sure if we're going to be able to keep the doors open. But we we just have an incredible community," she said.
Walker is most excited about adding a program called 100 Families Alliance to the Literacy Council's many education offerings. It's a program that has seen success in four other Arkansas counties in providing families a pathway out of poverty. The tagline is "from crisis to career."
It was started by a nonprofit called Restore Hope Arkansas to assist the families of previously incarcerated people. The group quickly saw its potential to help other families, as well, Walker said.
"We know that when men and women are struggling with unemployment or addiction issues or transportation issues, it doesn't just affect the person who is dealing with those issues. There are children in that home who are also impacted. And so we we really want to look at this entire the entire family as a unit and connect them with resources that are already here in our community. ...
"So this program really just kind of creates like a case management program where a family will come to us and we'll say, 'OK, you guys need this and this and this. And let me call my friend over at the Housing Authority, let me call someone over at DHS,' or whatever we might need to, to work it out so that we can help that family move forward all together," she said.
Other new Literacy Council programs in the works include a citizenship class for the growing immigrant population; expanded programming options for children and teenagers; evening and online options for adults; and free tax preparation services for those in the Council's financial literacy program.
And it will all take place in a new setting. The Council is moving into new offices more than twice the size of its current space.
"Whenever I came into this position was I had to cut some expenses. And our top expense was our rent. We were in a 4,000-square-foot building. And so we very quickly had to reevaluate that. And we moved into an 800-square-foot building, which is quite a bit smaller.
"And so we've made do, but we've had to max out all of our classes at 12 students, because there's no way we could even fit more people in the room. And so we are expanding to an 1,800-square foot-place. So we're more than doubling our room to accommodate all of the new people we have working on our team and also the students that we're hoping to get with these new programs," she said.
(All Literacy Council programs and classes are free. For more information, visit literacytxk.org or call 903-255-7733.)
There's much more in Karl Richter's full interview with Jenny Walker:
For this week's episode, host Karl Richter spoke with Jenny Walker, executive director of the Literacy Council of Bowie and Miller Counties. She leads the Literacy Council's mission to fill a wide variety of educational gaps in the Texarkana community, and she spoke about some of the exciting new projects …