During the month of May, Explorer Publisher Ryan Kedzierski challenged the entire staff to look beyond the office and do something that helps the community. The staff was split into two teams, and they definitely rose to the challenge. One team was led by Kedzierski, and the other by me. Each team had a month to come up with the project ideas and present them.

Kedzierski’s team ended up not only going out into the community and giving one day, but also coming up with a plan that will feature once a month  local volunteers who are selfless, give to the community and work hard once a month. The first, Alice Cook, was featured on May 30.

Volunteers are a community’s most valuable treasure, but so often they go unrecognized for their generosity. The Explorer would like to start recognizing some of the region’s best citizens through the “Helping Hand” feature once a month. The Explorer is asking the public to speak up about local volunteers who deserve recognition. Send nominations to cflora@explorernews.com, or call Chris Flora at 797-4384.

Kedzierski’s team also went out and gave blood, and volunteered during a local blood drive hosted by the American Red Cross. This led to a challenge to step out and assist with a variety of community projects beyond the month of May.

My team found out about a local organization aimed at promoting childhood literacy. The Early Literacy Resource Center for Southern Arizona promotes childhood literacy through the Make Way for Books program.

We quickly learned that Make Way for Books relies on businesses and organizations such as The Explorer to help promote the cause, and ultimately get books into the hands of children and families.

The need is definitely there, as we learned that nearly 60 percent of Pima County’s kindergarteners are not ready to start school. This is due to not being read to during the early development years between years 0-5.

As we researched the program and statistics involving literacy, we were shocked to find out that 44 million adults in the U.S. can’t read well enough to read a simple story to a child, and that only 53 percent of children aged 3 to 5 are read to regularly. There are almost half a million words in the English language, but a third of all of our reading and writing is made up of a very small percentage of those words.

Through the month of May, The Explorer took donations of children’s books, and then, worked to build what is called a little blue house.

The Blue House project allows volunteers to build and paint the bookshelf, and then place it at a business, or location with a lot of children passing through. Children are able to see the books, read them, and then, take them home.

The Explorer’s blue house is now sitting at SuperCuts at 3605 W. Cortaro Farms Rd. SuperCuts agreed to keep the house at its location where children will be able to take the books home.

The Blue House project is successful because it’s not just about giving children a place to read a book while sitting at a doctor, dentist or hair cut salon, but it encourages reading at home by allowing them to take the books home.

The Explorer staff worked hard to accomplish a lot in just one month. They took a challenge and made it into more than just a one-month project.

Log onto www.explorernews.com to learn more about The Explorer’s volunteer projects.

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