In 1983, the director and staff of the Charlottesville Adult Education Center identified a need for an “adult readers program” for the area. They invited community leaders and various service organizations to attend an exploratory meeting. This led to the formation of a small volunteer group who wrote organizational guidelines, by-laws, and elected the first Board of Directors. George C. Tramontin, a former Charlottesville School Superintendent and an inaugural member of the Board, was instrumental in providing the leadership to establish the organization and to begin delivery of services to adults with poor literacy skills.
In 1986, Virginia’s First Lady, Jeannie Baliles, made adult literacy one of her causes. She oversaw the founding of the Virginia Literacy Foundation. At the same time, funds were made available through the State Library and the State Department of Education to initiate literacy programs in communities throughout Virginia.
The Board submitted three successful grants applications. Although small, those and a grant from the Perry Foundation were sufficient to get the program off the ground. The City of Charlottesville provided a small office space that was shared with the Economic Development Office on Water Street.
In 1986, the first Director/Trainer was hired and then the organization became a full affiliate of Literacy Volunteers of America. The Jefferson-Madison Regional Library purchased adult literacy materials that were housed at the library. The Board became active in fundraising events that included book signings with local authors.
In 1989, there was a signature event – an author reception at Alumni Hall. The guest of honor, Eudora Welty, was in Charlottesville at the invitation of the Monticello Foundation and she graciously agreed to participate in the reception. She read her famous story, “Why I Live at the P. O.” Joining her at the event were local authors, Rita Mae Brown and Anne Beattie.
Eventually, the City provided a small office and classroom space at the Jefferson School Building. In the 1990’s, the office was moved to Tarleton Square on 7th Street NE. As the number of students served each year continued to increase, a Program Director and Executive Director were hired.
In 2000, the Virginia Literacy Foundation presented the Jeannie P. Baliles Award recognizing Literacy Volunteers of America-Charlottesville/Albemarle as an outstanding program.
Funding through the years of growth came primarily from grants (city, state, federal, United Way), from individual donations, and from fundraising events. Notable events included the Doodle Auction, Run for Reading, and 100 hours of Reading. More recently, Literacy Volunteers partnered with Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D) to present a Spelling Bee. In 2008, this partnership ended. The event was expanded to Wordplay and it remains the largest fundraising event.
As part of our 25th Anniversary celebration in 2008, a musical event, “Reading Rocks,” and a Gala, “Hemingway’s Havana,” were held.
Special thanks to Andrea Williams, a member of the first Board, for her contributions to this history write-up.
This history is a work in progress. If you know more about the background of LVCA, know people who can tell us more, or have corrections or additions, please contact us.