Brenda Benner first learned about the Perry County Literacy Council when she was invited to a PCLC event in 2008. At the event, Benner, a former teacher, met several of her ex-students who were working with PCLC and was impressed by how PCLC helped them towards achieving their goals.
Ever since then, Brenda, who serves as Perry County Commissioner, has been an outspoken supporter of PCLC, regularly attending the organization’s fundraisers and speaking about its success in the community. In addition, the Commissioner’s Office often helps teach PCLC students additional on-the-job skills.
“[PCLC] makes lives better,” Brenda says. “It helps those who, for some reason, could not succeed in traditional schooling, and I love the way they take [their students] one-on-one…from Step 1 to Step 2 to Step 3—and suddenly they are becoming productive members of society.”
“They not only help [their students] develop their literacy skills, but they also teach them how to interview to get a job…they get them in contact with Dress for Success and getting the proper attire for going to job interviews and for going to their jobs once they get them. And there’s a follow-up: they develop relationships, and that’s really an important part of what the literacy council does.”
Ivy Berry serves as Program Manager for both the EDSI EARN welfare-to-work program and the WIOA in Perry, Cumberland, and Juniata Counties. She and her staff at PCLC offer employment and training services to individuals experiencing various barriers to successful employment, such as public assistance, layoffs, lack of self-supporting income, or lack of education.
Ivy takes great pride in helping her clients surpass their personal barriers to reach their goals. “To be able to change people’s attitudes and spirits and improve their self-esteem, to allow them to become self-sufficient and self-sustaining—it really is a joy to see,” she says. “And knowing that it not only impacts them as individuals but the families that they’re representing also—that’s the reward of the job.”
“Being able to link up shoulder to shoulder, hand to hand with [my staff and partners] to help people in our community—that’s what I do. That’s what I enjoy. That’s what I’m here for.”
When Brittany Brinton’s father gave her a loan to help her get back on her feet, it came with the stipulation that she pay him back by earning her GED. This was where Perry County Literacy Council came in.
Not only did Brittany eventually achieve her goal of getting her GED, but she also developed an incredibly strong personal bond with the PCLC staff that helped her every step of the way. Today, she continues to involve herself with the organization, often providing assistance to PCLC tutors. As she puts it, she has “a special way of getting other students to understand how to do things.”
“I’ve definitely learned a lot,” Brittany says of her experience with PCLC. “I’ve learned to be a better person, and I got my GED.”
When Brooke Corl graduated from Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC) in 2014, her job experience was relatively limited aside from a five-month internship with the college. “[When] I got out, I was applying for jobs…everywhere, and kept hearing the same thing, which was, ‘You need more experience,’” she says.
Brooke began meeting with the local Office of Vocational Rehab, located in the same building as the PCLC offices. OVR was able to set Brooke up with PCLC and sign her up for the council’s customer service course. In June 2016—a mere three months after first enrolling in the course—she started at her new position with the Call Center of Perry County, right next door to PCLC.
“I was told that they really wanted me for the job over at the call center, and I was one of the first five hired,” she recalls. Brooke says that her time with PCLC has impacted her life in a very positive way, helping her both to find employment and learn valuable on-the-job skills. “Had I known I’d get a job this fast after coming to the literacy council, I would’ve done it a while ago,” she says.
From a young age, Joe Gabner knew he wanted to work with automobiles; however, he had trouble seeing how school subjects like algebra pertained to his desired career path. “In high school I thought I was too cool to do my work and did not want to put in the effort to succeed,” Joe remembers.
Throughout his high school career, Joe had trouble connecting with his teachers and getting the one-on-one attention he needed. He let his grades slip to the point where, near the end of senior year, his school guidance counselor called him to his office.
“He explained that if I had straight B’s and passed my final exams I would be able pass my senior year and walk at graduation,” says Joe. “I did just what he said, I had high B’s in every subject and passed my finals with no less than a C. Unfortunately, it was not good enough. I realized I made a grave error by taking my education for granted.”
Joe reached out to a friend who had gone through a similar experience. His friend informed him of the Perry County Literacy Council’s GED® program and brought him to the PCLC offices.
“I immediately felt as though everyone within the organization wanted to help me better myself,” recalls Joe. “In the short time I was there I built a strong bond with my counselor and learned that hard work pays off. Needless to say, with the help of the amazing people in the Perry County Literacy Council I was able to pass all of my exams and move forward in life.”
In August 2014, Joe began schooling at the Universal Technical Institute in Exton, PA, where he had enrolled not long before graduating. During his time at UTI, Joe received honors-level grades and furthered his education by enrolling in the Ford FACT Program, an elective program that offered 15 weeks of training as a Ford Motor Company technician. He graduated from UTI in December 2015 and found a job not long after with L.B. Smith Lincoln & Ford in Lemoyne, PA. The following March, Joe discovered the opportunity to work as a technician for the Pennsylvania State Police and has worked in this position ever since.
“I am the hard working and successful person I am today because of the Perry County Literacy Council,” Joe says. “They gave me the tools I needed to have a career. Students like me need a little more help than the average person and are unable to receive it in the standard classroom. In today's society you need to have a high school diploma, or equivalency, to succeed. With [PCLC’s] help I was given a second chance to have a future. I could never thank them enough.”
Phyllis Farmer was encountering a number of difficulties with finding a job. While she had a resume and was able to get interviews with a number of potential employers, she found herself frequently getting rejected—she describes her overall job-searching experience as “dismal.” However, all that changed when she met Carol Moyer, who informed her of the services offered by the Perry County Literacy Council. Carol helped Phyllis find a job which she kept for three years until the company declared bankruptcy. At that point, Carol encouraged Phyllis to look into a position with the Call Center of Perry County and helped her get into several PCLC classes, including courses on resume-building and interviewing as well as PCLC’s Retail Federation Certification course.
Phyllis now has a job with the Call Center and credits her self-sufficiency to her experience with PCLC. “I can’t imagine anybody not having a positive experience here,” says Phyllis. “I just can’t believe that this many amazing people are in one building together…Everybody I’ve dealt with—they’re just remarkable people.”
“I am sure that without the Literacy Council, I would still be trying to find a job or trying to figure out what I was going to do…my doctor was trying to convince me to file for disability because I do have some medical issues, and I really didn’t want to do that,” Phyllis recalls. “This has given me something that I can do and not have to be on disability…I can be productive, and I can earn my own money and take care of my family and not have to rely on…whatever Social Security decides they will give me...”
“If anybody needs any kind of help with anything, they always try to help you; even if it’s not their field, they’ll find somebody…or they’ll look into it. They try to help you with all sorts of things—not just educational things…just a great group of people.”
Since 2010, Jane has served as part of PCLC’s tutoring staff and devoted herself to helping PCLC students receive the tools they need for success.
Jane describes her favorite part of working with PCLC as “having a chance to meet people who change my life...the people who work here as well as the people that I tutor…You walk in the door, and you’re home. It’s a welcoming place, and they embrace everyone—no matter what the challenge is with that person, they embrace them and they dig until they can help them. They don’t give up.”
“You know the old carousels that had those gold rings, and people would ride around the carousel and try to reach for the gold ring?...That’s the way I look at these people. They’re riding around on life, and they’re taking chances and even if they slip and fall, they’re gonna get right back on that horse…and they’re gonna try for that gold ring until they get it. And that’s what’s so wonderful.”
Rep. Mark Keller
Pennsylvania State Representative Mark Keller has been involved with PCLC almost since the organization’s inception, when staffer Lane Partner reached out to him for help. Rep. Keller has since become one of PCLC’s most ardent advocates. He’s participated in a number of fundraising events, most notably in the function of auctioneer for the Race for Reading live auction. In 2016, he spoke at the grand opening of the Perry County Call Center, a PCLC initiative seeking to provide employment for students.
Rep. Keller frequently expresses his deep gratitude for being able to help what he calls a “tremendous” organization: “I’ve gotten to see the good [PCLC] does firsthand. What it does is save taxpayer money. People are working; they’re contributing to the economy instead of looking for government handouts. They’re becoming self-sufficient.”
As a prominent PA state legislator, Rep. Keller is keenly aware of the importance of literacy. “Regardless of what you do or where you are, you need to be literate to progress in the world today. [PCLC] helps those having difficulties…become productive citizens.”
Ed Madera found about PCLC from the public assistance office in Juniata County, which he learned could offer him help with resume writing and job training. Ed, who was unemployed at the time, recalls having trouble figuring out what kind of career would fit him best.
“Even though I’ve had different types of jobs in my life, I was never given any type of exam or anything like that where it told me what I would be better at doing,” he says. “[Taking PCLC’s exam] pretty much reinforced what I already knew, but it’s nice to see that there’s a method to the madness of figuring out what people are good at.”
Ed met with PCLC’s front office staff, who he says were quick to assist him: “[They] were very friendly and they were there to listen to what…my personal needs were, because everyone obviously has different needs…so that was really helpful. And it also helped me feel comfortable expressing myself to them and letting them know how best to help me.”
Ed quickly enrolled in PCLC’s customer service course, which reinforced numerous crucial points he had learned in his previous customer service experience—particularly, the importance of first impressions and helping customers feel at ease.
As an administrative assistant with the Perry County Call Center, Ed now helps train new call agents and teaches them how to work with customers using the system provided for them.
“I don’t think I would be successful if it wasn’t for [PCLC],” he says. [They] were very supportive—not only…helping me write my resume, helping me take the proper training that I needed…but they were also there to listen to me as a person, and to me, that goes beyond.”
“You are a person; they treat you as a person. And—each person matters to them, and they try to get you to the point where you can utilize your skills.”
A former youth case manager, Carol Moyer has worked with out-of-school youth for nearly a decade—most recently in the capacity of EDSI Youth Program Manager. The people for whom she provides assistance often have experienced significant life barriers—for instance, a need for job training, a driver’s license or a GED. She currently shares an office with PCLC and cites working in tandem with them as one of the most positive experiences of her life.
“Because of [Kathy Bentley’s] knowledge, I have learned so much on how to work with people,” she says. “The people—they make this work. Everybody is a team, and you can count on people to help you if you need it. You just know when you come here it’s a different kind of a place.”
“We always have a plan for each individual…so whatever they need, that’s what we’re gonna try to give them,” says Carol. “We’re always open to new ideas, so if any new situation comes along, we embrace it instead of trying to get rid of it…We may have to talk to each other how to figure it out, but there’s something out there somewhere, even if it isn’t us, that can help.”
As an EDSI Youth Case Manager, Amy Reed helps people aged 16 to 24 work their way towards a variety of goals—from earning GEDs or post-secondary certifications to finding steady employment or housing.
“I try to break down their barriers and make them self-sufficient, so they don’t have to depend on anybody else,” Amy says.
Amy places great value on her experience working alongside PCLC. “We’re a family. All my friends work here,” she says. “It showed me that everybody’s story is different…It has reminded me that I could be walking in [our students’] shoes, so I need to show patience and understanding and not be judgmental.”
“I’m always looking for people to join my program…and I think that when they do come in, they’ll see that they can achieve their goals.”
Yousos Res and Randy Loy
Yousos Res has been working with PCLC tutor Randy Loy for several months now. Yousos first learned about PCLC through his girlfriend, who was also taking classes there at the time.
“My family—they all have their diplomas except for me. I want to accomplish that,” says Yousos.
Randy, who has almost 30 years of experience as a tutor, started working with the Central Pennsylvania Literacy Council in the 1980s and came to PCLC after moving to Millerstown in 1995. He and Yousos have worked together with a variety of learning programs, including Laubach Way to Reading and Focus on Phonics, as Yousos prepares to earn his GED.
In just a few short months, the two have developed an excellent rapport, and Randy says he has greatly enjoyed working with Yousos and observing his progress. The experience, they say, has been extremely positive and rewarding for both of them.
Sen. Rob Teplitz
Before he became Pennsylvania State Senator from Perry County, Sen Rob Teplitz recalls being invited to a holiday party held by PCLC and being instantly impressed by the organization’s fervent quest to provide help to those in need.
As State Senator, Teplitz has donated generously to the Literacy Council and advocated for public money and state financial assistance to go to PCLC. He has also participated in numerous PCLC fundraising events.
“[PCLC] does so many good things for the county,” says Sen. Teplitz. “Helping people to read is probably what comes to mind from the name, but it’s much more broad than that—it’s really helping to fill a need for social services, for job training, for searching to find a job, for giving people a second chance and a way to get back on track with their lives…I look forward to continuing to work with them for as long as I continue to represent Perry County.”
Tina Wickard learned about PCLC from a pamphlet sent home with her son, a student at Blaine Elementary, from his school. She decided to pursue her GED and reached out to PCLC for help. She now continues to work towards her goal and cites the support and guidance of the PCLC staff as her constant inspiration. As of May 1, 2017, we're happy to report that Tina has finished her GED!
Charla Baum was always aware of the Perry County Literacy Council, but it wasn’t until her cousin Paul got in touch with them that she realized how many different services PCLC provided for its clients. Paul, who passed away recently, was severely mentally handicapped and had trouble functioning in everyday life. Charla remembers how PCLC assisted Paul every step of the way, from providing for his daily living needs to paying bills to intervening in issues at his workplace. She is deeply grateful for their service in Paul’s life and has become a lifelong supporter of PCLC, planning to get the word out to as many potential donors as possible.
“I just can’t say enough good things about them…I think they are just wonderful,” she says. “[PCLC is] definitely a needed service that I think everyone should support…When a person is educated, they do contribute themselves more.”
Gerry Barrett started working with PCLC in 2011 as a work-certified trainer. He then spent a year as part of the I’ll Succeed program. In October 2015, he started training students in customer service and sales fundamentals. In June 2016, he became a case manager for the newly-established Perry County Call Center.
As part of his position with PCLC, Gerry enjoys meeting new people and learning about their experiences. In addition, he finds his work very personally rewarding.
“I feel more worthwhile…I feel like I’m helping people, and it makes me feel more fulfilled,” he says. “I actually saw students improve their confidence…I felt good about that. I didn’t think I could really impact their lives, but…they’re so grateful. People are grateful for what I do.”