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United WE READ, a community initiative of the United Way of Greater Kingsport, awarded $10,000 to Rock Springs Elementary School to be used toward their library rebuilding efforts on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. After a sprinkler system malfunction on February 8th, Rock Springs Elementary suffered flooding to the library, causing a loss of 2,000 books and over $20,000 in damages. The United Way of Greater Kingsport Board of Directors approved a Community Partnership Grant in the amount of $7,500 to be allocated to Rock Springs Elementary for library books, with an additional match of up to $2,500 for any local community chest funds. This match was met by the Sullivan South Community Chest, bringing the UWGK grant total to $10,000 and the total from both organizations to $12,500, over half of the funds needed to rebuild.

The funds were formally presented to the school in a ceremony at the Rock Springs Elementary School gymnasium, where other community supporters were also recognized and thanked. UWGK Board President, Craig Denison spoke at the event, saying, “We have been leading the way for several years now in the State of Tennessee’s work to improve early grade reading scores by pulling together these school partners, out of school programs, and community leaders. When we heard what happened at Rock Springs Elementary, and we were asked to help, it was an easy thing for us to say ‘yes,’ because this fits in very well with the work we are already doing in the community.” Dr. Robin McClellan, Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction for the Sullivan County Department of Education, and Vice-Chair of United WE READ’s Strategy and Leadership Team commented on the grant, saying, “Words cannot express what a great impact this funding will have on getting great texts into the hands of kids.” “And that concept, providing young readers with quality texts and promoting a community awareness around the importance of literacy is exactly what United WE READ seeks to accomplish,” added Emily Merritt, United WE READ Manager.

Merritt spoke briefly at the event, outlining the importance of United WE READ to community literacy efforts, noting that the program expanded its partnership with local schools in 2015 to encompass eight city and eight county elementary schools, including Rocks Springs Elementary. Aimed at advancing the common good by raising visibility, deepening connections, and engaging supporters to build a literacy-rich community, and with a vision of seeing 100% of area 3rd graders reading proficiently by 2020, United WE READ has been a key community player in the fight to improve literacy rates among K-3rd graders. The initiative promotes reading year-round through the distribution of literacy kits to over 1200 2nd graders, a fast-growing community volunteer reading program, collaboration with out-of-school-time partners to include reading activities in regular programming, hosting and participating in community-wide events, and, most recently, by joining efforts with Tennessee’s new “Read to Be Ready” initiative. She then presented a check for $10,000 to Rock Springs Elementary principal, Dr. Josh Davis, who accepted the check along with students at the school.