Literacy Services of Indian River County celebrates 40 years

ORCHID – Sometimes, the very brightest idea just seems to spring to life in a flash, requiring no lengthy brainstorming, pondering or even Googling.

Such was the case as the board of Literacy Services of Indian River County met to consider the best way to celebrate the non-profit’s 40th anniversary year.

“We were sitting round, having drinks and I had a mad idea,” said Stephanie Berke.

Berke’s “mad idea” was to celebrate the 40th anniversary by summoning the drama and excitement of the 1940’s through the decade’s music and movies.

While the idea came in a flash, creating the event itself took months of planning and hard work – all leading up to the Sunday evening event.

The biggest and classiest fundraiser in the Literacy Service’s 40-year history – A 1940’s Cabaret Gala – took place at the Orchid Island Beach Clubhouse.

Sylvie Lewis, a friend of the Berke family, is an international singer who grew up in London, lives in Rome and has performed on many of the world’s stages. Obliging her Vero Beach friend, she flew from Rome to perform especially for this one night.

Another pal who crossed the pond, from Dublin with wife, Aoife (EE-fa), was Professor Kevin Barry, who discussed historical novels of the 1940s at Friday’s Love of Literacy Luncheon.

“We’re a small organization with a cause that is not exciting,” said Sandy Mann, event co-chair.

“We usually do rather small events. This one, with a movie theme, is glamorous – a big step up.”

Sponsors included the George E. Warren Corp., PNC Wealth Management, George & Marlen Higgs, Norman & Stephanie Berke, Bob & Sue Bond, Catherine Lambert, Sorensen Real Estate, Don & Linda Proctor, The Press-Journal, Don & Sandy Mann, Fidelity Investments, Treasure Coast Rotary Club of Vero Beach and Monti’s Flower Market.

A number of the organization’s tutors were among the guests, and they emphasized the importance of adult literacy, especially in how it directly relates, for better or worse, to literacy in children.

Alice Donars, attending with husband, Rene, has been a tutor for years and spoke of one of her students, a Mexican woman in her 40s who, although she had lived in the area for some time, still struggles with the language.

The message is clear: Helping an adult improve his or her literacy skills helps not only the adult student but the children’s literacy skills as well and is, therefore, the key to eliminating generational illiteracy.

Another dedicated volunteer, Marianne Mannino, has been a tutor for six years and, with friend Margie Zunk, works hard each year on another of the organization’s fundraisers, the annual 5K Race/Walk for Literacy.

Throughout the cocktail hour, guests clustered around a display board containing photos of movie stars of the 40s – guests were challenged to jot down as many names as they could – winners would receive a bottle of wine. This generated much humorous and heated discussion. “That doesn’t even LOOK like Clark Gable.” “Liz Taylor? Are you SURE?” “Who is that guy with Bogie? You know. The Sam guy?”

“It was fun to do,” said Berke. “Everyone worked so hard.”

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