Things move quickly in the literacy field. A year and a half ago, Evette Miller, a teaching consultant, started volunteering with the Oak Park-based non-profit organization Literacy Volunteers of Western Cook County (LVWCC), 125 N. Marion St. After a year, she became a member of the board. Now she’s the executive director, replacing Angela West Blank, who held the position for three years. Blank stepped down after resigning last month with intentions to move to Wisconsin.
Miller, a 34-year-old, married mother of two, completed the three-day, 18-hour tutorial program last year. The program is required of all the program’s volunteers.
“I began volunteering for the LVWCC about a year and a half ago,” she said. “It inspired me to get even more involved.”
Miller first became involved with LVWCC 10 years ago when she obtained her certification to tutor with the organization. However, circumstances at the time prevented her from actually tutoring a student.
“I had participated in several volunteer activities throughout college and when I discovered there was a program like [LVWCC], I thought it would allow me to continue,” said Miller. “However, my work load after college prevented me from pursuing it beyond certification.
“By 2006, I was a stay-at-home mother, and I had a little more time to volunteer,” she said. “I went through the 18-hour course again and began tutoring.” Miller also participated in several fundraisers, and her involvement caught the attention of members of the board.
When Blank announced she was leaving, LVWCC board member (and former board president) William Simmons approached her about applying.
“I feel honored to be working with a smaller organization with such a commitment to literacy,” said Miller.
The Literacy Volunteers of Western Cook County was founded in 1986 by a small group of educators residing in the Oak Park community.
At the time, the organizers sought to address what they felt was a lack of basic services focusing on the issue of literacy on the West Side.
LVWCC provides tutorial training free of charge (including books) for individuals looking to improve their proficiency in reading, writing and speaking English.
Each participant is paired on a one-on-one basis with a tutor looking to assist individuals according to his specific need, whether that be simply practicing their English, preparing to take their GED exam or learning English as non-native speakers of the language.
After graduating from Illinois State University with a degree in Science Health Information Management, Miller worked for five years as a medical records manager for Erie Family Health Center. Her interest in teaching was aroused when she attended a community fair in Oak Park, and she was intrigued by the idea of helping West Side residents improve their reading comprehension.
Her goals are to strengthen the relationship between LVWCC and the Austin community, an objective that has been in process for almost a year.
Since November of last year, LVWCC has collaborated with Elroy Christy of the Chicago Public Library, Austin Branch, located at Race and Central, to set up table exhibits at the library, which allow those interested, either as a student or as a volunteer, to learn about the organization through the distribution of fliers and pamphlets.
It can be a tough sell to attract students who may not be inclined to admit they need to improve their reading skills.
“It takes a certain amount of bravery for a person to come forward and ask for help learning to read,” said Miller. “We just want them to know that we are committed to helping them achieve their goals.”
For more information about the Literacy Volunteers of Western Cook County, call 708/848-8499 or visit www.lvwcc.org.