By Tom Davidson
Herald Staff Writer
Much like parents who are overjoyed watching their children learn new things, the staff of The Literacy Council of Mercer County have enjoyed helping adults learn the skills many take for granted.
“It’s one of the most fulfilling things you can ever imagine,” the council’s intake coordinator, Gerry Moore, said Friday.
That makes the anticipated closure of the council at the end of the year tough for staff members, Moore said.
“It’s heartbreaking to see it close,” she said.
Moore’s been involved with the council since it opened its doors in 1987, when it was formed to help Greenville-area adults gain the skills they needed to get new jobs in the wake of the regional industrial collapse.
For generations prior to the shuttering of companies like Trinity Industries, Chicago Bridge and Iron, Damascus-Bishop Tube and R.D. Werner, people didn’t need much of an education to find work and it wasn’t a priority.
“In this day and age you can’t work at McDonald’s without a GED,” Moore said.
The council served between 300 and 400 clients each year and expanded from solely serving Greenville residents to becoming the county’s lead literacy agency since 1993, when it merged with the Sharon Literacy Council.
It was funded through community support, United Way allocations, and the state Department of Education, Moore said, the latter of which was delayed in the last fiscal year and the council was informed it wouldn’t be funded in the next fiscal cycle, leaving it without enough cash to continue.
“We did everything we possibly could,” Moore said. “The bottom line is there’s not enough funds to continue.”
“We’re extremely sad this is ending,” she said. “We feel particularly sad for our clients, they’re going to be the losers.”
The council’s executive director, Nancy Castor, said there was really no other option but to shutter the council at the end of the year.
“This was not an easy decision,” she said. “We all worked very hard to figure out if there was any way to stay open. It was a gallant effort.”
Castor was hired in May and replaced longtime director Dr. Georgina Rettinger, who resigned in February because of health issues.
At its height, the council employed 20 people, but presently there are six staff members who will stay on until the end of the year.
The top priority now is seeing to the adults enrolled in the general educational development (GED) diploma program, Castor said.
“We are spinning our wheels to help those people this fall,” Castor said.
“I would like the community to know we have enjoyed working with adult learners,” Castor said, adding she’s grateful for the support people gave the council, a sentiment echoed by Moore.
“The staff and community support have been outstanding,” Moore said. “We could not have done it without that kind of partnership and help.
“We really wanted to end on a positive note. We want to celebrate the good things we’ve done,” Moore said.