Literacy Volunteers of Tucson
Literacy Volunteers of Tucson (LVT) transforms lives and enriches the community by teaching adults at the lowest literacy levels to read, write and speak English.
When SVP first began to work with LVT, the organization had just bravely walked away from State funding, which provided 30% of their budget. The grant from SVP helped to replace some of the dollars, but more importantly, LVT now had a cadre of experts to help with the strategic planning and fund development that was needed to successfully make this transition. LVT Executive Director Betty Stauffer described the partnership:
SURVIVING WITHOUT STATE FUNDS
After several years of struggling to meet all of the requirements of the State of Arizona Department of Education’s funding, Literacy Volunteers of Tucson (LVT) decided not to reapply for these funds. This decision was a scary one since these funds were a third of our budget at the time. However, in order to stay true to our mission to serve adults at the lowest literacy levels and to focus on their needs rather than on the state’s mandated standardized tests, we knew it was the right decision. It also left LVT free to serve all adults, given that State funding now also required that students’ residential documents be verified before teaching could begin. LVT was embarking on our first year without state funding when our relationship with SVP began.
Can you imagine our chagrin (code word for panic) when we learned that in addition to dealing with the loss of State funds, our rent-free building had been sold and we needed to find a new space? LVT had had to move seven times in the last seventeen years! Not again, we determined. This time we needed to buy a building.
I can’t begin to express what a relief it was to know that Mark Fisher, our lead partner, was only a phone call away. He got right to work and pulled together a Building Committee of Partners with expertise in commercial site planning, construction, development and real estate. I remember entering the first meeting not having slept much the night before with knots in my stomach. By the end of the meeting – after all of their very helpful input – I was not only less nervous; I was actually excited by the opportunity before us and (almost) confident in a great outcome. With relief, I realized that I didn’t have to figure this all out and become a building expert. I had a room full of creative experts eager to help!
HELP FROM A DONOR
Knowing that the search for a new building was in the capable hands of Partners with great commercial building expertise, my energy was able to shift to talking with our major donors. It was February 2009. The economy was a mess and getting worse. Donors, like everyone else, were afraid and had taken large losses in their investments. What I learned was that while they supported LVT and our work, now was not the time to launch a capital campaign. However, the same crashing economy had also left one of our donors with a building that she couldn’t rent. Our conversation led to a new home for LVT that doubled our space, rent-free for three years. Once again Mark Fisher jumped into action.
He used equipment from his company to power wash the exterior of the building. He then supervised our volunteer crews who painted both the exterior and interior. He used his truck to haul donated office furniture from the Blue Cross Blue Shield warehouse in Phoenix to our new location in Tucson. During all the details of preparing to move, when we would hit a snag, the staff would often be heard saying, “Maybe Mark can help with this!” And, he usually did. Bob Davis, our SVP commercial realtor, connected us with an architect and general contractor for a discounted build-out. Meredith Spear, our SVP site planner, assisted with plans to maximize the use of the interior space.
We are now happily housed in a wonderful new home on a main Tucson street close to the University of Arizona. We have three years to allow the economy to improve so that we can raise the dollars to buy this marvelously located building. It took a huge amount of work to get us here. SVP was a valuable partner who did a lot of the heavy lifting!