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Literacy Council finds new home

The location may be different, but what goes on inside has stayed the same at the Lincoln County Literacy Council.
After 18 years of service in the county, 16 of which were spent in the basement of the Lincolnton Post Office, the council has moved its location. It can now be found behind Griffin Brothers Automotive on Main Street in Lincolnton.
“The challenge has been for people to find us,” said Cristina Arlow, executive director.
Established in 1990, the council provides a number of literacy-related services such as one-on-one tutoring, English classes and computer workshops to help those with low reading and writing skills improve and function in the community.
The council had been housed in the post office thanks to an on-going agreement. When the office came under new management, however, the council either had to pay rent or find a new place to provide services or close its doors.
As a United Way agency, the council had originally used its funding to pay for materials to allow the services to be free to the public.
With the help of the community, the council was able to stay afloat. Individuals and businesses stepped in to assist financially as well as help move furniture, paint the walls and even hook up the Internet.
The result is a more spacious layout for the community to work and learn.
The biggest result of the Literacy Council staying open, however, can be seen in the people it helps.
“There is so much more that goes on here than just reading and writing,” said Arlow.
Yurelmys Aleman has been in Lincolnton for only four months after leaving Cuba. Because of the council’s survival English class, she has already learned to pronounce and recognize many English words.
“By coming here I am learning to communicate with people because I didn’t understand any English,” Aleman said.
Students not only obtain better literacy skills in the survival English class, they also learn a great deal about American culture.
One session they read about the history of Thanksgiving, while at another they wrote letters to Santa Claus. During many classes, Arlow uses newspapers so the students can learn about what’s happening in Lincoln County.
Another student from Costa Rica, Maria Jimenez, has been in the country for several years, but didn’t start taking the class until last year.
“Last year, I didn’t speak any English. Now I speak a little,” said Jimenez. “I’m learning to communicate, but most importantly, I’m losing the fear of communicating with others.”
Though their skills may progress at different paces, both women cherish the friendships they have made.
“We have come to feel like a family to each other,” Jimenez said. “The day I don’t come to class, I miss it, and I want to come.”
As someone who had to learn English herself when she came to America, Arlow knows how important it is to have others with you through the learning process.
“I can understand the fear, the isolation and the joy when you become a part of this new world,” said Arlow. “They are so grateful for the smallest things.”
With a fresh coat of paint on the walls and a fresh start in a new building, the council hopes to continue to provide services to the people of Lincoln County.
“I think it’s great. We were very disappointed when we had to move out of the post office,” said Larry Maddux, tutor and president of the Literacy Council Board of Directors. “I know that’s the goal, to expand and grow.”
Want to go?
The Literacy Council is now located at 814 E. Main St. in Lincolnton. For more information, call (704) 732-4189.
by Mary Williams

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