The Wetzel-Tyler Volunteers for Better Reading marked their 30th year recently with a banquet at Quinet's Court Restaurant. The 2011 Tutor of the Year was announced.
Jo Fauber, a long-time tutor, was a repeat recipient of the honor. Currently tutoring a student for whom English is a second language (ESL), Fauber has a history of working with ESL students, having tutored students from the Far East and Latin America.
Ken Block, current president of the organization, reviewed a history of the WTVBR, which was inspired by an editorial in the Wetzel Chronicle in 1981. Local residents Pauline McNutt and Diane Thomas, New Martinsville Public Library librarian, separately contacted the West Virginia Literacy Volunteers organization to find out how to set up a local affiliate.
Wetzel-Tyler Volunteers for Better Reading President Ken Block presents a plaque designating Jo Fauber as “Tutor of the Year” at the annual banquet, attended by some 21 past and present volunteers.
Over the years, the organization has tutored more than 300 students.
"No one is ever turned down," Block noted. "The service is free and one-on-one."
The organization is independent, with its own bylaws, and receives no help from outside foundations or the state and federal government. However, a generous gift from an individual has made it possible for WTVBR to concentrate on tutoring without having to have fund-raising activities.
In the mid-1980s, W. Brown Umberger of Proctor made a donation to help the organization find a home. Subsequently, the City of New Martinsville stepped in and offered the use of the Parkway Center, formerly known as the "hose house," at no cost to the WTVBR. For a time, the facility was shared with Big Brothers and Big Sisters, which has since closed its office in New Martinsville. A major facelift to the building was undertaken in 1996 and further renovations are planned for this year at no cost to the city.
In the early '90s, WTVBR expanded its mission to include tutoring school children in and outside of school. In 1992, a new mothers program, where new mothers were given a book to read to their child, was begun and continued until Wetzel County Hospital closed its obstetric unit. In 1996, assisting ESL students were added to the group's mission.
Ongoing events have included participation in "The Big Read" with ArtsLink, Dolly Parton's Imagination Library reading program, the Wetzel County Reading Council, and the Family Literacy Council. The organization has a working relationship with Adult Basic Education (ABE) and the Wetzel County Board of Education.
Over the years, the WTVBR has garnered numerous awards, including best affiliate in the state in 1998 and state Volunteer of the Year.
"Students come to us with a variety of goals," Block said. "An ESL student wants to become a citizen. A mother wants to be able to read to her child. A senior citizen wants to be able to read the Bible. An individual wants to pass a driver's test."
Block encouraged anyone interested in becoming a tutor or participating on the board of directors to call the office at 304-455-1933. Persons interested in receiving help with their reading may also call that number. The service is free and all calls are confidential.