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Harvest Youth Board awards $7K grant to boost area literacy

March 29, 2018

The Harvest Youth Board will help more than 250 area children receive free books with a $7,000 grant to United Way of Henry County and Martinsville and Smart Beginnings Martinsville Henry supporting the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.

While youth board grants usually are capped at $5,000, members of the board wanted to exceed this amount so more children could benefit from the program.  Following the board’s bylaws, members passed the necessary unanimous vote in order to exceed the cap.

“We chose to award $7,000, more than our standard grant amount, because we wanted to impact more children,” said Karli Foster, chairperson of the Harvest Youth Board. “This is a growing program and it is very beneficial to our community.”

Youth board member Ellie McGovern added, “I think this grant is important because it allows children within our community to spend precious time with their parents. As a kid, I remember my mom reading bedtime stories to me and how excited I would always be. I believe books are like a passage to another world without having to leave your bed, and I think everyone should get to have that experience with their parents.”

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library is a program that provides enrollees a free, age-appropriate book each month in the mail. It’s available to all children in the community from birth to age 5.

Melanie McLarty, director of Smart Beginnings Martinsville Henry, said she is “thankful for the generosity of the Harvest Youth Board to expand the program. This grant will help spread the love of reading and engage more local children in the most fundamental skill necessary to succeed in school and in life.”

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library also fosters a love of reading and learning at a very young age, said Philip Wenkstern, executive director of United Way of Henry County and Martinsville.

“It means a lot to the United Way and Smart Beginnings to receive this grant, and we truly appreciate the Harvest Youth Board’s recognition of the impact that the Dolly Parton Imagination Library has on the development of a child, Wenkstern said.

According to information provided by Smart Beginnings and the Dolly Parton Imagination Library Foundation, children become more enthusiastic about reading after participating, they are better prepared for kindergarten, and it increases reading with parents and caregivers.

Jacob Tisdale, Harvest Youth Board member, added that awarding this grant will have an impact on the entire community.

“I think the approval of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library grant request is a great move for the community,” Tisdale said. “This grant will empower young children with books, and help them foster a love of reading at a critical stage in their life. This program is especially great because it is indiscriminate. Any child can be a part. I’m so excited for the impact this program will have on Martinsville and Henry County.”

It costs approximately $27 each year for a child to participate in the program. If you’d like to sponsor a child or find out more, call (276) 403-5963 or visit  

The Harvest Youth Board considers grant proposals year-round for projects and programs that benefit youth in Martinsville-Henry County. Grants awards typically are up to $5,000. 

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