In November 1986, Zion Baptist Church at 61 W Bethel Street in Hagerstown created the Northwest Central Literary Council to help fight illiteracy in their community. The church recognized that there were many local residents who needed help improving their reading and writing skills and other folks moving into the area who needed help learning English. Their objectives were to meet the needs of the community, train new Tutors, pair each Student with a Tutor, work with other agencies to share information, and gain exposure of the council for public awareness. The council would be funded by donations only.
In the ensuing years, the council operated successfully by fulfilling their objectives, setting up a Board of Directors and office, generating advertising pamphlets, and creating tutoring programs within local companies. We fulfilled a need for Tutors at the local prison where we tutored inmates plus trained higher-functioning inmates to teach others within the prison. This is an example of our motto – Each One Teach One.
For unknown reasons (possibly lack of leadership or lack of Tutors) the council dissolved around August 1994. Frederick County Literacy Council held our funds and materials in trust.
In 1996 a Hagerstown resident, Barb Creager, attended the Frederick County Literacy Council Tutor Training Workshop where she met Tutor Trainers Carolyn Gaver, Betty Seligman and Joyce Routzahn. helped Barb find a student in Hagerstown and began discussing restarting the Council in Washington County.
In 1997, Barb met Naomi Butler, a library staff member, and began organizing a group of volunteers. Together, they canvassed local churches and service organizations looking for funding and volunteers to become Tutors. We remained an offshoot of the Frederick Council; Barb reported to them and they continued to hold our funds. Barb had a phone line added to her home and all materials transferred from Frederick, and we held two to three Tutor Training Workshops a year with the help of the Frederick trainers. Naomi helped find topics and places for the volunteers to meet and Barb attended meetings of Partners in Literacy in an effort to get the word out.
On November 17, 1999 we officially became the Literacy Council of Washington County. We found shared office space on Church Street in Hagerstown with two other non-profits and Barb moved the phone and all materials there. Some funding trickled in with donations; Tutor Laura Likely reported her hours to her employer CitiCorp and we received a donation every year. Frederick Tutor Trainer Carolyn Gaver helped request a grant from Laubach Literacy for new Tutor/Student workbooks.
Around 2000, George Miller, one our Tutors, became our new BOD President. George knew about the Reading Center at Trinity Lutheran Church (15 Randolph Ave, Hagerstown MD). The woman who ran the center used Laubach materials, but was not a Certified Tutor. When she retired, it was suggested that we could use her materials and share the office at the church with another non-profit organization. This was a good move for the Literacy Council. When Bill Price retired as the Parish Administrator for Trinity Lutheran Church, he became the part time office administrator for the Literacy Council. We amicably separated from the Frederick Literacy Council and became independent.
As of December 2016, we have refined our Mission Statement, developed By-Laws, became incorporated and formed a more formal Board of Directors to guide the work of the volunteers. We are still housed at Trinity Lutheran Church in Hagerstown Maryland. We work closely with the Frederick County Literacy Council by holding Tutor Training Workshops every Spring and Fall.
Currently, we have 31 Tutor/Student pairs working together within our three programs – Basic Literacy, ESL, and GED, and 7 Students waiting to be paired with a Tutor.