FLAIR celebrates 20 years of bettering the lives of Santa Paulans

December 14, 2005
Santa Paula News

Family Literacy Aid In Reading (FLAIR) celebrated 20 years of bettering the lives of Santa Paulans last week with a special ceremony at Blanchard Community Library.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesFamily Literacy Aid In Reading (FLAIR) celebrated 20 years of bettering the lives of Santa Paulans last week with a special ceremony at Blanchard Community Library. FLAIR matches those who want to learn to read with volunteer tutors, who spend several hours a week working with their students, forging a relationship that often is equally beneficial.BCL Librarian Dan Robles thanked the crowd for their interest in the program that almost didn’t become a reality. “This is our literacy program’s 20th year,” and it was founded when BCL was governed by the Santa Paula Union High School District Board of Trustees, who at first spurned the idea of program involvement, noted Robles.In 1985, BCL “could hardly keep its doors open” for its then 18 hour a week schedule, although the community considered the library a seat of learning. Robles said that he approached SPUHSD Trustees to discuss the application for a state grant for reading programs, and “I was literally laughed out of the room.... I argued that it was a service desperately needed in Santa Paula. How can you exist and live without reading?”Without the blessing of trustees Robles applied for the grant, and the BCL FLAIR program was born.Literacy Services Coordinator Kathryn Bornhauser created a special brochure for the evening, crafted from the document published for the 20th anniversary of the state program and updated with BCL FLAIR milestones.
FLAIR’s first graduates were in 1985; Barbara Rios joined the staff in 1988; Don and Debbie Johnson, owners of the Santa Paula Times, founded the annual FLAIR Spelling Bee in 1989, the same year that Elaine Hunt - who attended Thursday’s celebration - took over the program from retiring Jeanne San Carlo.Jeri Mead, who attended the December 8 celebration, became the coordinator of the new Families for Literacy program in 1990. In 1997 the FLAIR homework center was started, and the next year FLAIR received its first grant for parenting classes and started the Angels Tutoring program.Hunt retired in 2001, and Bornhauser became director. Since that time, staff has grown, a Book Discussion Group for intermediate and advanced learners was started, and a Financial Literacy class for adult learners was launched.The community and BCL Friends remain supportive of FLAIR, noted Bornhauser, and added that a video of “success stories of adult learners who achieved is really inspirational.” On display were FLAIR scrapbooks, and Bornhauser commented that under Hunt’s leadership the “transformation of FLAIR really began.... We call her the Godmother of FLAIR.”For a musical interlude, Suzie DeFazio and Richard Abbott performed “Baby It’s Cold Outside” before FLAIR graduates received diplomas from Sen. George Runner’s aide Linda Johnson and Bornhauser, substituting for Supervisor Kathy Long.BCL Trustees Ed Geis and Suzi Skutley were among the FLAIR graduates and supporters who enjoyed the potluck after the ceremonies.

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