28 Jun 2018

Board President Takes Literacy Personal

Good afternoon, thank you all for joining us.

My son learned to read this year. Seeing that growth—from reading basic sentences about a cat who sat, to ones that were increasingly complex—was one of the best experiences I have had as a parent.

Like me, everything my son will have in life will be a result of his literacy skills.

Fundamentally, we all want the same things in life: health, wealth and happiness. And study after study points to literacy being key to meeting those goals.

Improved literacy boosts earning potential and career opportunities, builds self-confidence and self-esteem, reduces poverty and inequality, and is foundational to sustained economic growth in our city and province.

But a third of our population struggles with literacy, and this presents complex challenges in both personal and professional lives. READ Saskatoon address those challenges by helping our clients with learning goals like career enhancement, educational upgrading support, or personal skills enhancement.

This is why READ Saskatoon’s work is so critical: we strengthen literacy skills that strengthen communities, and in turn create incredible economic spinoff.

Literacy should never be an obstacle to a fulfilling life for anyone.

We worked hard this year to eliminate this obstacle for as many people as we could.

As my first year as chair of the board of directors for READ Saskatoon comes to an end, I wanted share with you some of the highlights from the year. It was a year that, true to our strategic plan, saw our organization grow, sustain and strengthen.

Now in our second year in our new space on Duchess Street, more than 3,500 clients accessed READ programming. In adult literacy we had an 80 per cent completion rate. In family literacy, 90 per cent of our clients made positive changes. And in financial literacy, 71 per cent of participants planned to open their first RESP.

Key to building on those numbers, and ensuring READ Saskatoon programs are free, is the work we have done in government relations and fund development.

This year brought another tough provincial budget, and the political environment was complicated, with an election and new ministers in almost all portfolios.

Thanks to the work of the government relations committee, READ Saskatoon has weathered the storm, built strong relationships across all ministries and has shared our stories of success with key government partners. So, thank you to the Government of Saskatchewan which provides 33 per cent of our family literacy budget and 70 per cent of our adult literacy budget.

Our fund development strategies are paying off as well. Donors gave more than $60,500 to READ this year, the highest total since READ was formed, while our contract work, also the highest total to date, came in at $44,600. I want to thank the Korchinski Family Foundation as matching donors in our year-end direct mail campaign.

The necessity to diversify our revenue streams was brought into sharp focus with the news of the sharp downturn in support experienced by United Way Saskatoon this past year. Although we, too, were caught off guard by the news, we had a very strong financial year and will be able to withstand the shortfall from United Way funding because of our diverse revenue streams.

Another revenue stream, joining long-standing events LIT UP!, Speed Scrabble Tourney for Literacy, and the PGI Golf Tournament for Literacy, is Telling Stories and Storytelling. This event is going into its third year and wouldn’t be possible without Bill Waiser’s leadership and community connections. Next year’s event is already scheduled for May 9 at the Broadway Theatre.

The organizing committees of these events are incredible, and every year raise the bar and raise the money to support READ Saskatoon’s programming.

And while there are certainly many successes to celebrate, we cannot lose sight of the fact that 75 per cent of our budget is year-to-year funding. The stress this puts on an organization and its staff is immense. Future work must always go towards lowering that figure.

Next year will mark READ Saskatoon’s fortieth anniversary of delivering literacy services throughout Saskatoon. It’s astounding, and even more astounding is that READ’s programming has been able to adapt to the changing landscape and demographics of our city, remaining as relevant as ever.

Our challenge as a board this year will be to determine the vision for our organization to 2021 and develop a three-year strategic plan that reimagines our place in our community and refocuses the organization’s key strengths as necessary.

Although change is inevitable, we will remain committed to our core beliefs: Everyone has the right to learn, regardless of age; Strong literacy skills are not attained by chance; Communities have the right to responsive and effective literacy programs that are attended to with diligence; and Lifelong habits contribute to strong and resilient communities.

We know, none of our ambitions happen without the dedicated staff, volunteers and donors. You are all forces of nature who work tirelessly to support literacy in our community.

This year, 120 volunteers dedicated their time and knowledge to READ Saskatoon. Thank you for all that you do for our organization. In particular, I want to acknowledge three outgoing board members: David Hutton who has served six years on the board, including two as chair. Faith Baron, who served two years, and who also took on revising and updating our bylaws and articles of incorporation. And finally, Ray Morrison for four years of service, and outstanding contribution to our government relations work.

Finally, one can never understate how valuable Sheryl, Cecilia, Joanne, Jocelyn, Michelle, Beth, Amanda, Masesi and Diane are to our organization. In the face of challenge, Sheryl and her team’s enthusiasm, passion and dedication to this important cause never waver. We are extraordinarily lucky that each of you decides to commit your knowledge and talent to READ Saskatoon.

Thank you for supporting literacy and thank you for supporting READ Saskatoon.

Kris Foster
Chair of READ Saskatoon Board of Directors 2017-18


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