WePAC is honored to have been chosen as a finalist for The Wawa Foundation Hero Award. Please cast your vote online to help us win the $50,000 grand prize, and read our press release below!

West Philadelphia literacy non-profit vies for superhero status

West Philadelphia Alliance for Children seeks public support in quest to win prestigious award and $50,000 grand prize

PHILADELPHIA, June 20, 2017 – Heroes don’t always wear capes – sometimes they carry books. The West Philadelphia Alliance for Children (WePAC) has long referred to its volunteers as “reading superheroes.” Now the organization, a non-profit inspiring youth through the power of school libraries, is looking for the public’s support to make that moniker official – and to help it continue to bring access to books to thousands of schoolchildren in some of the city’s most underserved neighborhoods.

WePAC is one of four nonprofits competing for The Wawa Foundation Hero Award and its $50,000 grand prize. An online vote will determine the winner.

Members of the public can visit the foundation’s website at www.thewawafoundation.org/hero-award/ to cast their vote. Voting is open now and closes June 29.

The Wawa Foundation Hero Award honors a non-profit organization serving the greater Philadelphia area that assists others and builds stronger communities through preserving our independence, protecting our safety and mentoring and inspiring youth.

“WePAC is honored to be in the running for this award,” said Heather Farber, Executive Director of WePAC. “Our team of 150+ dedicated library volunteers helps students to love learning to read before they must read to learn. And that’s really important given the correlation between reading levels and dropout rates.” A child’s reading ability at the end of 3rd grade is a key predictor of dropout risk. About two thirds of Philadelphia public school children fall below benchmark on the state’s English language arts proficiency exam.

WePAC promotes childhood literacy by engaging volunteers in Philadelphia public schools through reopening and staffing libraries while offering academic mentoring to students in need.

“The vast majority of Philadelphia’s public schools lack a functioning library due to budgetary constraints,” explained Farber. “The simple truth is that all students benefit when there is a library in their school, but low income students need the most, benefit the most.”

WePAC’s achievements this school year included bringing school library programming to nearly 5,000 students; delivering 15,000 hours of volunteer service; operating libraries across 14 schools; and gifting new books to over 1,000 3rd graders to promote summer reading.

The Wawa Foundation Hero Award was launched during Philadelphia’s 2016 Wawa Welcome America! festivities and will be presented as part of the Independence Day morning ceremony on July 4th, 2017 in front of Independence Hall. The recipient of The Wawa Foundation Hero Award will receive a $50,000 grant and the three runners up will each receive $10,000 grants.

Other finalists for the award are Emily’s Entourage, which raises money and awareness to help find a cure for cystic fibrosis, with a focus on rare mutations; Lighthouse Inc., which provides educational, recreational and economic improvement programs to families and individuals across North Philadelphia communities; and Operation Yellow Ribbon of South Jersey, which sends care packages to U.S. troops in the Middle East and helps welcome home local veterans in South Jersey.

WePAC (www.wepac.org) is the only organization in Philadelphia working systematically to re-open closed libraries and bring library programming back to schools. This school year WePAC’s team of dedicated volunteer “reading heroes” operated library programming in Anderson, Blankenburg, Cassidy, Cook Wissahickon, Global Leadership Academies West and South West, Gompers, Hamilton, Heston, Lea, Longstreth, McMichael, Powel, and Rhoads schools.

WePAC is a partner of Read by 4th, a citywide coalition managed by the Free Library of Philadelphia focused on getting Philadelphia schoolchildren at grade level for reading by 4th grade.

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About WePAC

Established during the 2003-2004 school year as an outgrowth of a suburban/urban outreach project between Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church and many civic groups, today the West Philadelphia Alliance for Children is a wholly independent and non-sectarian 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.

After the School District of Philadelphia began closing school libraries in a drastic attempt to address the widening budget gap, the current face of WePAC was born, stepping in with library and literacy programming. Since 2009, WePAC has re-opened and operated volunteer-run libraries in Philadelphia public schools. This academic year, WePAC operated libraries in 14 schools and offered a one-on-one literacy mentoring program, Library Buddies, in several schools.

For more information, contact: Heather Farber, WePAC Executive Director   ■  heather@wepac.org