A Milford-based literacy center is facing financial challenges, and its director appealed to the Board of Aldermen recently to help fund the program.
Tami Jackson, director of the Literacy Volunteers of Southern Connecticut, asked the aldermen to consider adding money to the budget to help support the center. Jackson said she felt awkward asking for money, but the center, which she said serves many people in the area who need help with the language and integrating into the community, is short of money.

With fund-raising down from previous years, and a reduction in dollars received from the United Way, Jackson said meeting the $95,000 annual costs has become difficult. The center is down $8,000 for the first quarter, she said.

The center, housed within the Fanny Beach Community Center in Woodmont, has been located in Milford 22 years, and during that time has supported the two part time employees with fundraisers, personal donations and small grants.

“However, times have changed,” Jackson said, “Funders are not giving as often, fundraisers do not yield the same amounts.”

She told the aldermen she is nervous.

Then Jackson talked about the people the center helps.

“We have a woman from the Ukraine who is learning English,” Jackson said. “Alla wants to go to college so she can get a better job. Her tutor has assisted her with transcripts, the registration process, meeting with the guidance counselors and helping her with the class work that she must complete.”

Alla made the dean’s list in the fall of 2015, Jackson said.

Another student is from Cambodia.

“Savun has been with the center for over five years,” Jackson said. “She received her citizenship last year after living in the US for 20 years with her husband and son. She wants to work, but she does not have a high school diploma.”

Savun is now working with two additional tutors to help in math, science and history as she works toward getting her diploma.

Last year the center supported more than 100 students and donated 700 books to local children. The center’s tutors donated more than 4,000 hours, she said, adding that there are 45 different languages spoken in MIlford, including Chinese, Russian, Vietnamese, Urdu and Spanish.

Volunteers work with students at satellite offices at the Milford Library and Stratford Library.

Jackson attended the Board of Aldermen’s budget hearing last Thursday not sure how much to ask the aldermen to fund the program. She simply noted that she is short, so far, $8,000, and believes at least $10,000 would be a figure worth considering.

The city budget contains 17 grant allocations for agencies such as the Beth El Center and Boys & Girls Club. The amounts allocated vary greatly: The Beth El Center gets about $80,000 a year; Boys & Girls Club, $70,000; Milford Progress, $10,000; the Fine Arts Council $67,500.

Mayor Ben Blake said it would take a two-thirds vote by the aldermen to add a new grant item to the budget, but he said Jackson’s plea, and her description of some of the people the center has helped, “seemed to win over some hearts.”

The Board of Aldermen have just started its phase of the budget process, and is expected to vote on a city budget in May.
Other fundraising
Jackson said residents can also help by taking part in an upcoming fundraiser — the Great Give May 3 and 4.

The Great Give® 2016 is a 36-hour community fundraiser starting at 8 a.m. on May 3 and ending at 8 p.m. on May 4.

The Great Give is an online searchable database of nonprofit organizations serving Greater New Haven and the Lower Naugatuck Valley of Connecticut that was created by The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven in 2010.

“It is a matching donation program,” Jackson said. “We could get two times the money.”

Go to thegreatgive.org for information.