Success Stories

Editor’s note: Today’s blog post comes from community leader and board member Jerry Bellune. 

You and I have a lot to be thankful for. We can read and write, have a great job or a secure retirement, loving families and comfortable homes. Not everyone is as blessed as we are.

The first employee we ever had who could not read or write was a young man named Jimmy. When his deep, dark secret was discovered, Jimmy walked away and we never saw him again. He harbored that secret a long time and was humiliated when he was found out.

There’s hope for the Jimmys of this world. Through the good work of volunteer Turning Pages tutors, hundreds of illiterate adults in our area are learning to read, write and other skills they need to land good jobs and take care of their families.

Genevieve Ray Lyons who works with us at Turning Pages shared several success stories about the progress of our learners. Alex is an example, Genevieve writes. He is a public school dropout who started learning to read at around a second grade level four years ago. Today he has advanced to a high middle school level. He’s gone from a disadvantaged background to a married father of several kids. His wife is a nurse.

In another example, Former Turning Pages director Debbie Yoho worked with Alice who started at mid-elementary level and progressed several grade levels before Debbie retired. Now Alice is working with another tutor and found a job in a middle-school cafeteria but has higher goals. She is able to read such popular fiction writers as Nora Roberts and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. And Alice wants to set a good example for her granddaughter who lives with her.

“Speaking of working in cafeterias,” Genevieve writes, “we have several learners who work at USC in various housekeeping positions. Another works at the Marriott in the kitchen and another, Sarah, worked as a sous chef at a popular local hotel’s restaurant, but dreams of attending culinary school. Some learners are lucky enough to get tutoring at work. “At a local hospital, we had weekly tutoring sessions with a small group of employees, during their workday.” One learner, Samantha, improved from fourth to sixth grade level, and the hospital, seeing her improvement, switched her into computer-based, on-the-job training to help put her on a track toward promotions.

“It always fascinated me how many learners came by after work,” Genevieve said. “Their goals were not necessarily to simply get a job but to do better work at their current job to get a promotion. “It is always important to emphasize that the people who come to Turning Pages are highly motivated. Many of them are currently employed, or retired after working many years. The Lord helps those who help themselves.”

Turning Pages Board Chairman Bruce Donatelli of Lexington is working with me to raise $10,000 to keep the tutoring going. For a $100 donation, I will give you five autographed copies of my books. They make great Christmas gifts. Just call me at 359-7633 to make a donation.

Read Jerry’s Success Strategies at