Monday, October 28, 2013

Cocktails in Character with Literacy New York

Imagine not being able to read a bus schedule, gas bill, prescription, street sign, nutrition label, bank statement, or ballot. You may have experienced that traveling in another country, but what if it was in your own home? What if you couldn't read to your child or help them with their homework? For one in five adults in Erie County, that's their reality. Literacy New York Buffalo-Niagara is a nonprofit working to change that reality and help people improve their lives through literacy. They connect over 300 adult students with trained volunteer tutors, as well as
running drop-in centers, classes, and after school programs.

I had the chance to be a part of LNY's mission from 2010-2011 when I was employed by them to run an after-school program on the East Side. I had a fantastic time and, while there were many challenges, I look back on my time with the kids as something I was incredibly lucky to be able to do.

I'll never forget one day when I read them old-fashioned Grimm's fairy tales and then we all talked about what fairy tales are like and why we tell them to each other as a society. They were in grades K-6 in failing schools and they were often kept awake at night by gunshots, but let me tell you, they GOT IT. Why are good people pretty and bad people ugly? Why is everyone all good or all bad? Why do good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people? I am tearing up just remembering. We all went home to different things, but those afternoons together were truly golden.

I wanted to stay involved but I couldn't commit to being a tutor. Luckily there are lots of other ways to support what they do. Volunteering, donating, and voting are all great ways to make sure they can keep doing their important and incredible work.

One way you can advance their mission indirectly is to support a culture of reading in Buffalo. I am one of the biggest book nerds you can find, and I love being in a place that publicly celebrates reading on the grassroots level. Some of my favorite ways to celebrate reading in Buffalo are the Buffalo Reading Invasion, shopping at local bookstores like my favorite Westside Stories, book clubs like the Lovin' On Buffalo Book Club, and Buffalo's Little Free Libraries.

Perhaps the most fun way to support literacy in our region is to attend Literacy New York Buffalo-Niagara's annual fundraiser, Cocktails in Character. Yes, it is what it sounds like - dress up as your favorite literary character and enjoy cocktails and entertainment! It will be held in The Hotel Lafayette, which has been such a fantastic example of the reuse and revitalization of old Buffalo treasures. It seems a perfect setting to celebrate a renewed commitment to addressing some of Buffalo's biggest ongoing struggles.

At this year's event, people with VIP tickets will have the chance to take a half-hour behind-the-scenes guided tour of the historic building. If you bought a regular price ticket but you're dying to go on the tour, guess what? There will be one additional tour offered exclusively for Enjoy Buffalo readers. An announcement will be made that night telling you where and when to meet. When you show up to take the tour, you just need to tell the organizers you are a guest of Enjoy Buffalo in order to join. If you know someone who is going, be sure they know about this, too.

There are lots of great events in Buffalo, but I have limited resources and time, so only a few actually get me to attend. This is one of them. This will be my third year attending (yes, in costume) and I hope that many of you will join me! Follow the night on Twitter using #CinC13.

For more details, ideas for costumes, or to buy tickets, see their website:

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