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Helping Others While Helping Yourself

Giving Back With Literacy
Giving Back With Literacy
Yolanda M. Johnson-Bryant DTM

I’d like you to say the word me about twenty times. Get ready, set, go!

Me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me.

Whew! That was a lot, wasn’t it? Did you get tired of saying me? My point is it’s not always about me or you. From time to time, you must help others. “My success came about by helping no one!” no one ever said. Wouldn’t it be great to help someone else, all the while helping ourselves?

I recently attended an event called HOLLA! Day in May. HOLLA stands for Helping Our Loved Ones Learn and Achieve. It is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a mission of promoting community literacy. The nonprofit organization is based out of Morven, North Carolina, and provides several resources for its community. The organization owns nearly every building on a city block and has an event center, a reading center, fitness center, country store, and basketball and tennis courts.

HOLLA! Day in May included a 5K walk/run for literacy and literary festival. Authors from various genres, including children’s titles, attended the festival. In addition to bringing awareness to literacy and raising funds with the 5k walk/run, authors were able to set up tables and sell their books. The organization holds events throughout the year. This was my second year attending HOLLA! Day in May. It would be great if every underserved community could do something like this. They actually can, and you can help.

Why not start a literacy program in your community? Though doing this is rewarding, it does require work. Research to learn what programs are already in your community. If your neighborhood already has a literacy program, you may want to turn your attention to an underserved neighborhood. The literacy rate is highest in underserved neighborhoods, and they need our help.

Figure out what exactly it is you want to do in your community or a nearby community. Do you want to create and host an annual walk/run? Do you want to hold weekend workshops? Do you want to open a community center? Do you want to have a mobile reading truck? The possibilities are endless. Although your cause doesn’t have to be limited to literacy, it can be anything you’re passionate about: cancer, diabetes, Alzhiemer’s, autism, or any other worthy cause. It might be a good idea to get involved with your local library or charitable organizations like the United Way or the Red Cross.

Most of these programs are nonprofit or not-for-profit, in which case they are more likely to get government assistance, grants, and donations than for-profit organizations. Research to determine which tax status is best for you, and complete the proper paperwork and steps to set up your organization. (It’s beyond the scope of this article to go into the particulars of starting and running nonprofit organizations.)

You can search several places for funding as well as solicit donations—cash and noncash—or sponsors for your program. If it’s a reading center or bookstore you want to open, you will need donations of new or gently used books. If you’re looking for cash donations, you may want to offer tier-donating. For example, a silver donation may be designated as $50 or more, while a platinum donation would be $50,000 or more. You can tailor this however you see fit.

Another form of funding is government grants and loans. There may be funding at the federal, state, county, and city level. Search for Websites and government entities that offer bids, grants, contracts, and loans. Some funding may require certification. Again, do your research to see what programs are available to you.

One of the newest crazes in funding goes back to monetary funding. Kickstarter is a crowd funding resource that helps people raise money for their projects. You begin with picking a starter category: arts, design, dance, technology, or publishing. If you mosey on over to the Kickstarter page (, sign up, and click on the Publishing tab, where you will see several authors who have started publishing projects. Notice that, so far, Robin Sloan has raised $13,942 from 570 backers for her project to write a book. The site is easy to navigate and set up. Projects usually run between one and sixty days, and there is a fourteen-day window after the expiration of the project to collect pledges. You must have an Amazon account, as your funds will be deposited into it before they can be transferred to your banking account. Also, make sure you read the fine print. You’ll have to pay a 5 percent fee for funds raised, as well as associated Amazon credit card fees.

These are only a few ways you can start a program in your community. While you are helping others, you are getting your brand as an author out to the masses, which could ultimately lead to the sale of more books. Helping others makes us feel good and our success depends on it. Who knows, doing something for the community can ultimately lead to that next inspired title.

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