Ellie Robertson is the daughter of a teacher and a former teacher herself, so no one needed to tell her that students who fall behind in reading in elementary school are at a disadvantage later in life.
Although there are several charities and state resources devoted to childhood literacy, Ellie believes the community cannot afford to ignore adults who lack proficiency in reading, writing, and speaking. The economy needs literate workers. “I feel that we should catch the illiterate wherever we can,” she says. Oakland Literacy Council, she adds, functions as the “last chance” for adults in our area to get help.
When she retired, she put her talents in education to work for Oakland Literacy Council as a volunteer tutor. “I really enjoyed teaching adults,” she says. “They were there voluntarily to learn.” She recalls teaching an auto worker, who felt lost when his employer introduced computers on the assembly line and expected the employees to follow on-screen instructions.
Once, one of her students asked her why she gave her time. She replied in her soft-spoken voice: “I get as much of out of this as you do. It’s really satisfying to help someone.”
Early on, Ellie and her husband, Bernard, decided to become donors to Oakland Literacy Council. “My husband and I give to the causes that are important to us,” she says. In recent years, the couple has served as benefactors of the annual Ex Libris fundraising dinner.
It’s important to Ellie that charities she supports devote as much of their resources as possible to the people they serve. “I’ve always thought the money was used efficiently at Oakland Literacy Council,” she says. “I think they’ve been very lucky to get good part-time employees and good volunteers.”