Ch@t: ‘No-Show’ event features ‘A Fool for Christmas’

Posted 7/24/20

This week, we chat with Vicki Newell, executive director of the Chatham Literacy Council, about the organization’s upcoming fundraising event. Newell has worked as the executive director for nine …

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Ch@t: ‘No-Show’ event features ‘A Fool for Christmas’

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This week, we chat with Vicki Newell, executive director of the Chatham Literacy Council, about the organization’s upcoming fundraising event. Newell has worked as the executive director for nine of her 10 years with Chatham Literacy. Before that, she worked in early childhood development with local and statewide Smart Start initiatives. All told, she has 32 years working in the nonprofit world, having started that journey as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Newell hails from the state of Utah and has lived in Chatham County since 2003 with her husband and three sons.

Typically at this time of the year we’re talking about the legendary author or writer you’re preparing to bring in for the next Chatham Literacy fundraiser. This year’s “No-Show Fall for Literacy Book Event” will naturally — because of COVID-19 — be different. For starters, let’s talk about the “No-Show” event and what it’ll look like…

We’re excited to hold a truly unique event for our community in September. As the staff and volunteers adjusted to this COVID challenge we rethought our internal and program-focused activities including our fall fundraiser.

That clarity and focus produced some innovative fundraising solutions, including what we’re calling a “No-Show” Fall for Literacy Book Event set for 11 a.m. on September 26th. “No-Show” means you don’t even have to step outside your door to participate in our fall event.

Chatham Literacy is really looking forward to sharing this opportunity to collectively enjoy Gurganus’ short work, “A Fool for Christmas.” We are encouraging book lovers to read this uplifting, delightful story on your own, in an intimate gathering with your book club friends (all the while in masks and socially distancing), or virtually with friends.

What can you tell us about Allan, his body of work, and why his “A Fool for Christmas” is such an appropriate book to feature during the upcoming event?

With the impact and challenge of COVID-19, we felt readers would simply enjoy celebrating this deeply interesting and wonderful author in the comfort of their own homes. Reading this short story is a great way to have some fun and also get a jump start for the holiday season since this story centers on a chance encounter that produces a Christmas miracle. So we hope everyone will join us in spirit as they read this literary treasure.

Gurganus told us that he’s proud that Chatham Literacy chose this tale for the event. He said that one of the main characters in his story reflects Chatham Literacy’s efforts in the community. Like the character Verne, he sees Chatham Literacy’s potential everywhere because literacy is growing more important every day. Specifically he told us, “We’re living through a crisis that requires friends to help friends, communities helping communities. Literate citizens are essential to our nation’s health.”

Gurganus is a native North Carolinian. Many people may know of his best-selling novel, “Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All.” That book was on the New York Times best-seller list for eight months and was made into a television production and later became a Broadway play. Gurganus just told us his latest work will be called “The Uncollected Stories of Allan Gurganus,” to be published in January of 2021.

Why is the fundraiser so important to Chatham Literacy? And how will it help mitigate the impact the pandemic has had on the important work you’re doing?

Often literacy is overlooked as a basic need. Adult literacy is essential to develop an educated workforce, help people make informed decisions and help them gain confidence to become more engaged in their community.

Though we can’t come together for the “No-Show” Fall for Literacy Book Event and raffle, donations we receive will allow us to continue providing essential adult literacy services that creatively respond to this “new reality” caused by COVID-19.

Many of you helped Chatham Literacy in the spring when COVID-19 forced us to cancel our Spring for Literacy Author’s Event and you converted your registration into a donation. That generosity was a significant help to our program and thus to many Chatham families. So let’s have some fun “together” during our No-Show Fall for Literacy Book Event while you also help us help our community.

Literacy leads to gainful employment, financial and family stability, improved health care and better outcomes for the next generation. Literacy transforms lives.

Chatham Literacy, NCWorks Career Center and the county’s Economic Development Corporation have teamed up on a “Ready, Success, Grow” series of enhanced job skills courses for business professionals, which kicked off this week. What can you tell us about that?

The term “literacy” means an individual’s ability to read, write, and speak in English, compute, and solve problems, at levels of proficiency necessary to function on the job, in the family of the individual, and in society (Workforce Investment Act 2014).

As literacy is defined above, we also offer life skills literacy services that prepare adults for the expectations and norms in today’s society and workplace. When confronted with COVID-19, we decided it was more necessary than ever to deliver training on job skills enhancement. Since the importance of this is paramount to Chatham Economic Development Corporation and NCWorks Career Center, we joined forces to develop and promote this virtual opportunity.

“READY, SUCCESS, GROW!” is free job skills-enhancement training to increase employability. Chatham Literacy, NCWorks Career Center and the Chatham Economic Development Corporation partnered to create a four-course training that will be held at 6 p.m. on the last Tuesday and Thursday of each month, July through November 2020. Each course lasts one hour.

The training is free and presents career-boosting information in a smart format. These short, but effective courses will cover:

• “COVID-19 and the Workplace,” to learn about how the pandemic has affected the workplace, including the new state and federal laws.

• “Professionalism: Enthusiasm and Attiude,” which will cover how professionalism, enthusiasm and attitude on the job can help secure a raise, promotion, or new job opportunity.

• “Teamworking Essentials,” detailing how teamwork makes the ‘dream work’ and

• “Networking,” on how to make valuable career connections and why it’s an important component of moving forward in a job. Trainings sessions are July 21, 23, 28 and 30; August 18, 20, 25, and 27; September 17, 22, 24, and 29; October 20, 22, 27, and 29; November 17, 19, 24, and 26

To register: enter the link, visit OR call Chatham Literacy at 919-742-0578.

What details do we need to know about the “No-Show” event?

This “No-Show” Fall for Literacy Book Event” is set for 11 a.m. on September 26, the final day of National Literacy Week. Tickets are $60 each. The first 125 people who sign up will receive a free, hard copy of Gurganus’ book.

This unusual “No-Show” Book Event also includes a unique raffle. Each $20 online “raffle ticket” gives you a chance to win special and delightful prizes.

If your raffle ticket is randomly chosen you’ll have a chance to win one of six prizes, including

• a $100 gift certificate to Postal Fish Company;

• a COVID gift basket:

• a reading basket with signed books from local authors;

• framed artwork by Marcelle Pachnowski;

• two wind spinners by Eddie White or

• a $50 Netflix gift card.

Ticket winners will consecutively be allowed to choose a prize in the order tickets are drawn. The winning tickets will be drawn at noon.

Registration will be open until September 26 for the “No-Show” Fall for Literacy Book Event and Raffle at: or call 919-214-1269.


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