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Literacy fund gives children a head start

Maribeth Janssens (left), director of community impact for United Way of North Central Massachusetts, thanks Holly Conry, advertising administrator, Sentinel and Enterprise, and John DiNapoli, municipal and community services manager, Unitil, for supporting the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, a literacy program that provides books to local children.

The North Central Massachusetts Literacy Fund has made a $2,500 donation to a United Way of North Central Massachusetts reading initiative for children.

“The Dolly Parton Imagination Library is a wonderful program for our young people because it is proactive and has a proven track record of improving reading skills and, ultimately, graduation rates,” said John DiNapoli of Unitil, which is one of the founding organizations of the literacy fund. 

A three-way partnership created the literacy fund in 2000 as a way to celebrate the new millennium. The Sentinel and Enterprise approached Unitil and HealthAlliance with the idea of creating a permanent fund to promote literacy in the region. 

According to Holly Conry, advertising administrator for the newspaper, the fund is a perfect example of how partners can come together to improve the community. “When we established the fund, this was the exact purpose—to provide funding for local literacy programs.”

“The North Central Massachusetts Literacy Fund was the very first fund established at the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts,” said Phil Grzewinski, president. “Because it is a permanent fund, it will generate income annually, forever, allowing it to support literacy initiatives in perpetuity.” 

United Way established the Dolly Parton Imagination Library three years ago. It is providing about 2,000 free books per month to Fitchburg, Leominster, Gardner, Templeton and Winchendon children.

Children under 5 are eligible for sign-up, regardless of household income, according to Maribeth Janssens, director of community impact at United Way of North Central Massachusetts.