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Local United Way recognized for impact of virtual volunteer reading program

Sue Guinn Legg • Updated Feb 13, 2019 at 8:54 PM

A new virtual volunteer reading program launched by the United Way of Washington County to help local second-graders improve their reading has received statewide recognition.

On Sunday, United Way President and CEO Kristan Ginnings was presented with a Governor’s Volunteer Stars Award for the Vello virtual reading program being piloted this school year in 10 Johnson City and Washington classrooms.

Enthusiastically received by teachers and school administrators for the one-on-one tutoring it provides via a shared computer screen and audio hookup, the program targets second-graders who are reading below their grade level in attempt to bring them up to speed before they reach third grade

So far the program has linked five to eight students in each classroom with Vello volunteers who likewise appreciate the program for the flexibility it gives them to work directly with students from the comfort of their homes or offices.

Vello volunteers have also been linked with first- through fourth-grade students at Coalition for Kids and the Boys and the Girls Club of Johnson City/Washington County for a total of 160 to 200 students who are receiving one-on-one reading coaching one to two times a week.

At Sunday’s award presentation, Ginnings said Vello was recognized for being an innovative and impactful way to connect volunteers with needs in their communities, for the number of volunteers it has engaged, the number of children it has impacted and for potential it holds for future expansion.

With a recent $25,000 grant from Ballad Health and other resources banked by the United Way for Vello, Ginnings said the program should be able to double the number of children it serves in the next school year.

According to Ginnings, a $3,500 sponsorship will provide all equipment, software and volunteer training, including a virtual library of more than 5,000 titles, for one classroom for an entire school year.

The United Way’s goal is to bring more corporate sponsors on board with Vello and to recruit businesses and civic organizations with members who would like to volunteer together as a Vello team for a local classroom.

In accepting the Governor’s Volunteer Stars award, Ginnings said, “We are thrilled and humbled to be honored alongside those in our state who work every day to change lives and make a positive difference all over Tennessee.

“We are delighted that our Vello reading program, while new, is being recognized both for the difference it is making in third grade reading proficiency and for the outpouring of volunteerism it has sparked in our community.”

More information about the program, including corporate and volunteer registration forms are available at the United Way’s website at https://uwowc.org/vello.

More information may also be obtained by calling the United Way at 423-220-1229.

Email Sue Guinn Legg at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.

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