Everybody needs a buddy sometimes.
That's especially true for elementary-aged children looking for someone to which they can read.
The United Way's I Need A Hug literacy initiative is looking to connect local first and second graders in Lake and Porter counties with reading buddies through its Reading Buddies program.
So far, said MacKenna Dickt, volunteer coordinator for the United Way of Porter County, the program has provided stuffed animals to children in 106 classrooms throughout the region. However, there are several classrooms on the waiting list. Most of the classrooms on the waiting list are in Portage and Gary.
The program started with school guidance counselors who used the stuffed animals as crisis tools. It grew, she said, when the Valparaiso University softball program, looking for a community service project, adopted the program.
Now the United Way in both counties have been reaching out to groups, organizations and businesses throughout the region to support the program either through donations of new stuffed animals or cash donations to purchase stuffed animals. Each $5 donation provides a stuffed animal to a child, said Dickt. The animals should be sized to fit in a child's lap.
Groups or businesses are encouraged to adopt a classroom or school.
Students read to the stuffed animals for 15 minutes a day to improve their reading skills.
This year they collected 3,000 stuffed animals and distributed them to classrooms. The goal for next year, said Dickt, is collect 5,000 stuffed animals to distribute in September.
Dickt said anyone interested in donating or organizing a drive can visit the United Way's website at www.nwivolunteer.org or call her at (219) 464-3583.
Source: NWI Times