Literacy is near and dear to Cathy Bentz's heart.
Her father had trouble reading in school, and because of that frustration never went to college.
So nobody was surprised when Bentz, a lawyer from Mooresville's Monterey Landing neighborhood, was glad to take part in the Rotary's latest plan to help Mecklenburg County's ailing library system.
Bentz, chairman of community service for District 7680, is working with other Rotarians and the Future of the Library Task Force, a team dedicated to improving Charlotte Mecklenburg Library's situation. How exactly the relationship will work is being worked out. The Rotary's goal is to offer its assistance and help out any way the task force requests.
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Bentz, 52, a Cincinnati native, discovered her love of writing before going to college. So when she went to get her bachelor's degree at the University of Ohio, she wanted to major in journalism.
However, by the time she finished her degree, she would major in English.
To further her writing career, Bentz took a job selling cookware to women.
"I figured that would be a fun job to meet characters and people that would help me become a better writer," said Bentz.
She succeeded at the job and was promoted time and again; however, the travel was taking a toll and she decided she needed a change. She asked her mother what she could do with a love of writing and a business background.
Her mother told her to pray.
And Bentz did. One day she woke up and knew what her new direction would be.
She'd go to law school and become a lawyer, something she'd never before considered.
She went to Temple University for her law degree. Though she graduated, she didn't attend the graduation ceremony. She was busy getting married to her husband, Al.
Shortly thereafter, she found her first job as a lawyer. She now runs Bentz & Associates law firm on West Catawba Avenue in Cornelius, focusing on business law and estate planning.
She first learned about the Lake Norman area while driving with her husband from Pittsburgh, Pa., to visit her mother-in-law in Charleston.
During the long drive for the trip, which the two made several times, they'd routinely stop at a hotel at Interstate 77 Exit 28. One evening while eating at a restaurant where North Harbor Club in Davidson now stands, she saw a magazine that contained home layouts. One design caught her eye, and she kept it in the back of her mind.
When her husband later announced that, because of his job, they'd have to move near Atlanta or Charlotte, Bentz already knew where she wanted to be. Their home in Mooresville has the same layout of the design she saw in the magazine.
A few years after she moved to the area, Bentz joined a Rotary chapter. She was a founding member of the Huntersville-Lake Norman Rotary and currently is a member of the North Mecklenburg Rotary that meets in Cornelius.
District 7680 last year decided to pursue the idea of helping the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library system, which was hit with budget cutbacks. District 7680 stretches from Mooresville through Charlotte and encompasses 53 local Rotary clubs.
In September 2010, Rotary members, including Bentz, met with the Future of the Library Task Force, a team dedicated to finding ways to improve Charlotte Mecklenburg Library's situation.
The Rotary's goal is to offer its assistance and help out any way the task force requests.
The task force should have suggestions for the Rotary soon. In the meantime, the Rotary already is making preparations to help, primarily through manpower.
With 53 Rotary clubs within District 7680, the Rotary has many members who can help with little things like delivering books or big things like supervising summer or after-school reading programs.
The Rotary also can offer something invaluable: Acting as an advocate for the library system.
Some say libraries are a relic of history and that paper books aren't compatible with today's digital culture of iPads and Amazon's Kindle.
Bentz insists, however, that libraries are as relevant today as ever.
"I've learned so much from reading: history, the world and different cultures. What's society going to do if our libraries can't provide that?" she said.
Even if people aren't using libraries for books, Bentz insists many libraries teach lessons needed to succeed in life. Many libraries offer programs that can keep students from falling through the cracks, teach adults and children to read and how to use computers.
These are the types of programs that could have helped Bentz's father, Gene, when he was slipping through the cracks in school. He always had a hard time reading, which caused him to reject studying and, she believes, also caused him to become a disciplinary problem while at school.
The lack of a degree eventually caused him to lose his job as a social worker; he spent the rest of his career as a construction worker.
Bentz's passion about libraries and literacy is a personal conviction that literacy is necessary to be successful.
"This isn't about books, it's about literacy. That's what this (project) is about," said Bentz.