After two years and close to two thousand dollars in donations, I've decided to finally rotate out our Boswell Beneficiary, which has currently been Partners in Health. Paul Farmer's organization has made a difference to so many poor people in need, providing medical care to folks in places like Haiti. My original idea was to change out the organization every three months or so, but like so many big ideas (our display cases, the art wall, my staff rec shelf), everything just seems to take a little longer when so many other things have crazy deadlines.
So as of April 14, our new Boswell Beneficiary will be Literary Services of Wisconsin.
What is the Boswell Beneficiary, you may ask? It is connected to the Boswell Benefits program, where folks who sign up get a $5 coupon for every $100 they spend. Perhaps someday this tic will be fixed, but in actuality, you get a $5 coupon for every $95 you spend, because the coupon counts towards your total. No wonder folks are always surprised by how quickly they come.
You can use the $5 towards anything in the store within 90 days. Unlike other coupons you might get, there are no restrictions regarding minimum purchase, or whether you can use multiples at once. You can. Do you want to buy magazines or newspapers or gift cards with them? Fine. Our only other restriction is that you must use the coupon all at once, and not $3 now, $2 later.
But you also have another option, for folks who liked the old Schwartz Gives Back program that involved a donation. You can surrender the coupon and we will donate the entire amount to our Boswell Beneficiary, which as of April 12, will be Literary Services of Wisconsin.
My first memory of this organization was when Carl, one of my long-ago fellow booksellers, started volunteering there after his store shift. He'd catch a bus over to 27th and Wells to offer help in reading. It reminded me of when I used to tutor math in high school. I thought, "Hey, maybe I will do that," but 25 years later, it's still on my to-do list. Maybe it's on yours too. Here's how to volunteer.
Literacy Services was started in 1965 by a group of business leaders to combat the problem of adult illiteracy in Milwaukee. The literacy movement's champion at the time, Doctor Frank Laubach, used the model "Each One Teach One" to make a difference. They now work training folks in basic reading and spelling, ESL, and GED preparation. Newer programs stress computer literacy, financial basics, and workforce readiness.
You would think I combed through hundreds of proposals and spent countless hours comparing programs to make this decision. But sadly, it was just a function of a) admiring their new space, located in the historic Gimbels Department Store parking ramp and b) seeing the executive director, India McCanse, browsing in the store. That led me to, "Hey, we should update the Boswell Beneficiary to Literacy Services."
And so we did.
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