“Never give up,” Patricia Cornwell told Literacy Partners’ English students when she visited their class just hours before the 29th Annual Gala hosted by Liz Smith, Literacy Partners’ Honorary Chair. These words were echoed by the other honorees that evening, including Tatiana von Fürstenberg and Jacqueline Weld Drake, to the 400 guests in attendance at Cipriani 42nd Street.
Tatiana von Fürstenberg shared her personal story of literacy’s impact on her life. Her passion for reading and writing stemmed from her childhood and has guided her current work and philanthropy. She voiced her support for our programs saying, “Literacy Partners encourages and helps so many people.”
Jacqueline Weld Drake, long-time supporter and recipient of the 2nd Annual LIZZIE award, encouraged attendees to join her in fully realizing the power of literacy, which has informed her dedication to our cause. To her, “books open up the reader to other lives and other places.” This rings true for Yvonne Hoyte, Literacy Partners’ student reader of the evening.Yvonne currently attends Literacy Partners’ Adult Basic Education (ABE) classes with the goal of attaining her GED. Yvonne is also diabetic and blind in one eye due to a stroke. Despite these obstacles, she has persevered. She has not given up. “At first, I was nervous, but I had patient teachers who encouraged me and I began thinking ‘I can do this.’ The more I attended classes, the more I wanted to learn.” Yvonne has embarked on a new journey towards ultimately becoming a social worker. Her pride, determination, and courage radiated throughout the room as she shared her story. Guests were moved to tears when they got to know Yvonne and came to understand her struggles and the power of her accomplishments; she received a standing ovation at the end of her speech. Following her remarks, the Humanitarian Auction led by Hugh Hildesley of Sotheby’s raised over $200,000 in a mere 10 minutes.
Literacy Partners’ Executive Director Anthony Tassi described the ability to read as “a set of keys that unlock the doors to so many things we take for granted.” The doors are shut tight for people who can’t read well. They face so many challenges and obstacles. But, he assured our guests that they have the power to break the cycle of illiteracy and poverty. “We can do this. By joining the fight, you can turn things around for thousands of your fellow New Yorkers. The results will be measured in the resilience of the human spirit and in lives forever changed.”
Literacy Partners is thrilled to announce that we surpassed our fundraising goal of $1.1 million. With the generosity of our supporters, the success of students like Yvonne is made possible. Thank you to everyone who contributed to the evening coordinated by Alina Cho, CNN Correspondent and Gala Chair. A special thanks to our distinguished guest readers, Bill O’Reilly, Jon Meacham, and Elizabeth Strout.
At Literacy Partners, we will not give up our pursuit of eradicating illiteracy in New York City. As Patricia Cornwell said, “Literacy Partners gives a voice to those who don’t have one.” Thank you for being a part of that voice.