In the cold, in the dawn, in the sun in the Hart and in the fog in the Bowl, they came out in their bright orange T-shirts, newspapers in hand.
Wednesday was Raise-A-Reader Day in Prince George and another $11,000 was raised to support literacy projects in the area, thanks to the generosity of residents lined up in the drive-thrus at Starbucks, McDonald's and Tim Hortons across the city, as well as at UHNBC, UNBC and CNC.
To say we're proud of our ongoing commitment to Raise A Reader is an understatement. The focus of this national campaign is to draw attention to the importance of literacy, particularly among young people. The money raised in Prince George on Wednesday will all stay in the community to support efforts by various agencies to improve literacy rates.
Being able to read and write makes the world a better place in so many ways.
There is a direct correlation between literacy rates and crime rates. The higher a community's literacy rate, the lower its crime rate and vice versa - the larger the portion of the population that can't read and/or write, the higher the crime rate.
Literacy means better pay over an entire working career, better health over a lifetime, more engagement in the community, greater tolerance of racial, religious and ethnic differences, higher voter turnout at elections and a greater focus on formal education and ongoing, lifelong learning.
Schools, colleges and universities all make valuable contributions in this area but funds from Raise A Reader in Prince George have helped support literacy projects at the Family Y, the library, and the CNIB, to name just a few.
On Wednesday morning, the generosity of residents was on full display.
Many gave $5, $10, even $20 in donations.
Others were apologetic while handing over handfuls of change stowed in various nooks and crannies of their vehicle, some of those handfuls equaling or exceeding the value of donations made with bills.
Most of the contributors saw the volunteers in the orange shirts, realized it was Raise A Reader day again, and had their money ready by the time they were approached.
One man, clearly hooked on regular doses of morning joe, donated both times he appeared in the drive thru in the two hours from 7 to 9 a.m. that volunteers were on the streets.
For some people, clearly used to waiting in long lineups during the morning rush for a needed caffeine injection, rolling down the window and chatting with someone, donating some change and getting a free paper was a nice start to the day.
Particularly gratifying for The Citizen staff that took part were the comments that they had read the paper already, either in paper or digital form, but were happy to make a donation anyway to help literacy work in Prince George.
And then there were the volunteers, too many to mention, but there are two in particular who standout.
Along with her regular appearances at the regional CanSpell spelling bee, MLA Shirley Bond has been a fixture at Raise A Reader in Prince George, coming out every year. She was on Twitter before 6 a.m. Wednesday, tweeting about it and encouraging residents to come out and donate.
Chief Librarian Allan Wilson has devoted his career to literacy so it's no surprise to see him and many of his staff out each year for Raise A Reader Day. For Wilson, Raise A Reader is as much a celebration of the power of literacy as it is about raising funds to help others. Along with his excellent juggling, his infectious attitude pays off in the response he gets for donations.
There were others out Wednesday. Mayor Shari Green did her part along with Wilson at the Fifth and Central Tim Hortons. Meanwhile, out in the Hart, city councillor Lyn Hall caught several drivers off-guard when he approached them and, with a grave, deadpan delivery, asked for $100 donations. He didn't get any takers but, after having a good laugh with each started driver, the former School District 57 board chair obtained significant contributions.
Thank you, Prince George, for your generous donations, big and small, on Wednesday to Raise A Reader.