Telephone Pioneers help make ‘Readers for Life’ in East Portland

Find out why retired workers of Qwest – formerly Pacific Northwest Bell – gave books to every student at Harrison Park School …

Volunteers belonging to the organization called Qwest Telecom Pioneers, come to Harrison Park School bringing bags filled with brand new books for the students.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
As part of their “Readers for Life” initiative, the Oregon chapter of Qwest Telecom Pioneers – a 99-year-old volunteer organization that included Alexander Graham Bell as a founder – marched in to Harrison Park School (formerly known as Binnsmead) on SE 87th Avenue, carrying colorful canvas bags, on the morning of January 15.

“We asked the Harrison Park teachers of second, third, and fourth grade classes to help, when we ordered these books,” Rita Adams-Daggett told us as they assembled in the school’s auditorium.

Lynda King, President of Oregon Qwest Telecom Pioneers; Cindy Barnes, Qwest’s national Telecom Pioneers manager; and local Pioneer volunteer Rita Adams-Daggett converse, as the students come into the auditorium, eyeing the bags of books that await them.

The books brought by the Pioneers weren’t tattered used tomes. “These are brand new books – 628 of them – appropriate in both subject matter and reading level for these students,” Adams-Daggett explained. “Each student will receive a book today; the remaining books will be used as rewards for students participating in the school’s reading programs.”

Adams-Daggett said that the Telecom Pioneers – there are about 350 in the area – give away books because they feel education is important. “Education solves a lot of problems. When you have an education, you don’t get into trouble and can advance in this world. Many of these kids are at risk because they come from families of a lower economic status. We want them to develop the habit of reading and learning, so they can get ahead.”

Qwest’s national Telecom Pioneers manager, Cindy Barnes, tells Harrison Park School students they’ll also receive a “Love to Read” bookmark, to remind them of this day.

Joining the local chapter members was Cindy Barnes, Qwest’s national manager for their Telecom Pioneer program. “This year alone, we will give out over 50,000 books under our ‘Readers for Life’ program, in our 14 Qwest-served states.”

Qwest started the “Readers for Life” program, Barnes told us, “Because we want to support education, and give the students the chance to be successful adults. Reading is a key component to a child’s education, a necessity to be successful in today’s society.”

“Just thrilled!” was how Debra Lande, Assistant Principal of Harrison Park reacted to the gift. “This is an amazing and wonderful gift that will help increase literacy for our students.”

The President of Oregon Qwest Telecom Pioneers, Lynda King, gives a book to second-grader Alycia Solis-Hendrix, as her teacher, Emily Toll looks on.

One of the many students receiving books at the special assembly was second-grader Alycia Solis-Hendrix. She was all smiles as she accepted her book. “I’m really excited about this,” she said with a big smile.

To learn more about the Qwest Telecom Pioneers “Readers for Life” program, visit their website: CLICK HERE to view it.

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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