Fundraiser to help literacy program

When the newly formed Charlotte Random Acts of Kindness Association was considering a benefactor for its kickoff event, Rosanne O’Rear’s idea came naturally.

The south Charlotte resident has been a tutor with the Charlotte Augustine Project for Literacy for the past five years. She asked the Augustine Project to present an informational program to RAK members, who were quickly sold.

Both groups hope that’ll be a similar result for items at RAK’s April 27 sale of women’s accessories, at the Jazzercise Fitness Center in Charlotte.

"I’m in love with the Augustine Project," said Mary Marshall, who co-founded RAK a few months ago with fellow Charlottean Cathy Jenkins. "What they do can really make a difference in a child’s life."

The literacy program, based locally at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, has 20-30 tutors who work twice a week on a one-on-one basis with students who are mostly from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

Augustine director Candace Armstrong said the group was formed nearly 20 years ago in Chapel Hill, and its first Charlotte tutors were trained in 2005. The retired middle school teacher was attracted to Augustine because of its specific approach to tutoring.

"The foundation of the program is something known as Orton-Gillingham, an approach that’s been around since the 1930s to help children who have learning disabilities or with dyslexia," she said. "Dr. Sam Orton was the first person to begin looking at children with dyslexia and recognizing that it was either neurological or biological, not a matter of intelligence.

"He and Gillingham began working together to find a way to help children who should be able to learn to read to do so. They devised a multi-sensory approach -- audio, visual and kinesthetic -- meant to help children who struggle with literacy learn to read.

"Since we train people to use multi-sensory strategies, that’s why it is very intensive training, a two-week training. ... We’re working on a condensed training to help people who can’t give up two weeks of their lives to take our training. We know there are a lot of good people out there."

Armstrong noted that socio-economic factors play a big role in the fact that 30 percent of high school students drop out before graduating: CMS says that more than half of its students are economically deprived.

"What’s important is, children from poverty can learn to read," she said. "Children with learning disabilities can learn to read with the appropriate intervention.

"About three-fourths of the children who were behind (in reading) when they leave third grade are still behind when they get to high school. But 90 percent of those who were behind in third grade can still be helped with the appropriate intervention."

Augustine is a good fit for the kinds of organizations RAK wants to help, O’Rear said. The nine-member group, started as an outgrowth of social contacts, "spent some time in the beginning talking about what we wanted to do and the kinds of people we wanted to help."

She said the group heard a lecture by Robert D. Lupton, author of the book "Toxic Charity," which helped it establish some ground rules: Be careful not to embarrass or humiliate with acts of charity, even with the best intentions; don’t perpetuate poverty; and keep charity local.

RAK co-founder Marshall said she wants to keep learning about giving -- in a relaxed atmosphere. "We welcome different personalities and age groups because that’s how we learn a lot from each other. ... Because of these friends we have where everybody knows somebody and we’re in touch with some good circles, we can make a difference for people."

O’Rear said Marshall has "for years given random acts of kindness to people. She finds these people and does it on her own. Those are unique individuals in the world."

Reid Creager is a freelance writer for South Charlotte News. Have a story idea for Reid? Email him at