Thirty years ago this summer, Judy Bryce heard a radio announcement that would change the way she would spend her free time for years to come. The announcement promoted programs to end adult illiteracy, a goal championed by then First Lady Barbara Bush. “I was an English lit major, and I couldn’t imagine people not being able to read for information and enjoyment,” Judy recalls. “That ad rang a bell as something I would like to do in my spare time.”
Judy reached out to the Oakland Literacy Council, which at the time was housed in downtown Pontiac in space shared with Oakland Community College. Judy wound up helping out in the office while waiting for the next tutor training session that fall. She has volunteered behind the scenes ever since.
One of Judy’s first tasks that long-ago summer was to send out invitations to the very first Ex Libris fundraiser dinner. That’s how she met volunteers who sat on the Council’s former Friends Board, which organized Ex Libris along with other money-making activities to support the Council’s free one-on-one tutoring program. Eventually, Judy became president of the Friends Board. Later, the Friends Board merged with then-separate Advisory Board to create a single Board of Directors. For the last several years, Judy has served as secretary of the combined board.
Always modest, Judy also frequently volunteers at the Council office. She regularly phones potential and current students to schedule testing that determines eligibility for service and progress in tutoring. She’s patient, especially with English language learners who struggle to speak and understand the language.
Besides volunteering in the office and recording the activities of the Board of Directors, Judy has continued to help organize Ex Libris. This summer, she’s helping to plan the 30th anniversary of the event, a remarkable achievement in the nonprofit world. In addition, she sits on the planning committee for the Motor City Wine and Food Festival, which hosts events throughout metro Detroit to raise money for literacy organizations, including the Council.
What has kept Judy committed to the Council for so many years? “I love the people who work there,” she says. “Oakland Literacy Council is a great group of people who aren’t looking for accolades for themselves.”