HUDSON–Columbia Opportunities, Inc., and The Hudson Family Literacy Program received a $100,000 Community Service Block Grant last month. The grant is part of $2 million distributed by Governor Cuomo to communities across the state to help citizens become more employable.
On December 21, state Secretary of State Cesar Perales visited John L. Edwards Elementary School for a press conference and to congratulate school Principal Steven Spicer, Sophie Becker, director of the Family Literacy Program and Kimberle Webster of Columbia Opportunities on the award. Also congratulated was Carol Gans, Mr. Spicer’s predecessor as principal of JLE, who started the program in 1999.
The program focuses not just on pre-school age kids who need to learn English before they start school in order to get the most out of their education. It also helps each student’s family, assisting parents with their English skills, job readiness, civic and computer literacy, and job placement. Other parts of the program help young people stay in school, return to school, or achieve educational goals like a GED outside of school. It began with grants from the federal Even Start program.
“These funds will go directly to the communities that need it the most and will provide our underserved populations with vital services that can help them find jobs in this tough economy,” said Secretary Perales. “Providing high needs communities with job training and intensive skill development in high demand industries is essential to getting our economy moving again.”
In praising the local program Mr. Perales said, “We’re here to learn from you and hope the program will be replicated elsewhere in the state.”
One group that benefits from the program is the local Bengali community, many of whose members came to Hudson to work in the button factory run by Emsig Manufacturing Corporation from 1994 until the factory closed in 2002, unable to compete with less expensive buttons imported from China. Thirteen of these constituents were among the newly hired at Flanders Corporation, a sign that the Hudson Literacy Program is seeing results.
The program, now in its 13th year, hit rough times in 2010, when it looked like the funding that had helped it grow, might dry up. Soon after an article about the situation appeared in The Columbia Paper, long-time supporter Marlene Brody, co-owner of Gallagher Studs, the horse farm in Ghent and Gallagher’s Restaurant in New York City, came to the rescue with new funding, and last May the program was one of 10 nationwide to receive a $65,000 Barbara Bush Award for its work promoting literacy.
Tax deductible donations for HFLP may be made either to Columbia Opportunities, Inc. or to the Hudson City School District Foundation.
To volunteer at HFLP, call Sophie Becker, 518 828-9493, or the foundation at 518 828-4360 ext. 4322.