OCALS recognizes tutors working to help others with literacy in the county

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 2 February 2023 at 1:35 pm

Provided photo: OCALS recently held a tutor appreciation luncheon as part of their goal to increase tutors and students. From left are Kathy Punch, community engagement coordinator; and tutors Dennis Seekins, Ann McElwee, Barbara LaBella and Vickie Hutchison.

Orleans County Adult Learning Services, more commonly known as OCALS, is on a mission to grow its organization back to pre-Covid numbers.

OCALS was founded in 2006 by Don and Rose Ruck, then residents of Clarendon, who saw the need for a literacy organization in Orleans County, after Literacy Orleans dissolved and they heard complaints about the need for literacy services in Orleans County.

For the first few years, the organization grew under the sole leadership of volunteers. In recent years, they expanded their services to include not only adults in the community, but school children who were struggling with their reading.

Prior to the pandemic, they had 42 tutors who served 85 people in the county. But when Covid hit in March 2020, the operation basically came to a standstill.

At their annual dinner meeting last September, new president Pam Schuner was introduced, along with Kathy Punch, who was hired as community engagement coordinator. Punch is traveling throughout the county to meet people and make them aware of the need for tutors and students.

Today, they operate with two part-time employees and the rest all volunteers. Along with funding from United Way of Orleans County, they are working to create fundraisers on their own, said Don Colquhoun, vice president and treasurer of the organization.

Their main goal now is to recruit more volunteer tutors and secure more students and adults to serve. To that end, on Jan. 30 OCALS held its first tutor appreciation luncheon. Several individuals recognized were new community engagement coordinator Kathy Punch and tutors Dennis Seekins, Ann McElwee, Barbara LaBella and Vickie Hutchison.

OCALS is gradually getting back to normal. There are now 15 tutors and last year they served 70 people, including community members and school children. This year they are working with students who have trouble reading in Medina and Albion school districts, and plan to be in Lyndonville this month.

They have also been invited to come into Kendall and Holley as soon as they get more tutors. They not only help students in the school, but will do private tutoring outside of school, as well.

Two new board members who recently joined the organization are Jennifer Bansbach and Julie Keller.

Anyone interested in becoming a tutor or who needs tutoring may contact OCALS through Colquhoun by calling (585) 331-1570.