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Need help reading? Dial 2-1-1

September 20 2012 | no comments

In Michigan one in every three adults reads below a sixth grade level.  But help is just a phone call away.

As a Detroit police officer, Lloyd Sharper was used to being dispatched by 9-1-1.  Now he’s being called to duty when someone dials 2-1-1 looking for help to improve their reading skills.

After 32 years as a cop, Sharper is continuing his public service at the Siena Literacy Center on Detroit’s northwest side.  He says, “You know that if you’ve made a difference in someone’s life — it’s sort of my feeling that that’s part of the reason we’re all here is to make a difference in other people’s lives — to give back to the community that you’ve got so much from.”

Sharper is one of 95 tutors at Siena, “No matter what level you’re at, no matter if you’re immigrant or native born, we’re here to help you, really.”

There are 110 students at Siena.  One of them is Kenya Harper-Black.  She wasn’t afraid to ask for help , “In order to get here, you have to move past your obstacles, you’ve got to move past your fears, you have to be motivated to come and be dedicated to come to the center.”

And it all starts with a phone call to 2-1-1.

The United Way’s 2-1-1 service is one of the region’s best-kept secrets, providing callers with information on a variety of topics.  And for those who struggle with reading, a call to 2-1-1 may be the start of a life-changing event.

Brandi Turner is one of the voices on the other end of the line.  She told us, “Some people are intimidated because maybe they’ve been out of school for a long time.  Maybe they’re ashamed.  But we like to give them that boost of encouragement that you took that first step in calling us, and that’s why we’re here to help.”

The 2-1-1 center is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  2-1-1 Director Dave Bartek says, We’re basically the single point of contact for the adult literacy program so that we can get them hooked into whatever program it is they need.”

As Kenya Harper-Black says, “You do have to admit today, ‘I have to do this for myself.’”

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