Focal Point: 1979 to 1983 History


The end of the 1970s meant new beginnings for Literacy Volunteers of Rochester (LVR) and the new volunteer tutors. Throughout 1979, LVR continued to hold workshops to train new tutors and garner the interest of the community to be involved. A few dozen individuals were trained in 1979 to be tutors and matched with a student.

Interestingly enough, on the national side of Literacy Volunteer operations, the up and coming entrepreneur, Wally “Famous” Amos became the national spokesperson for Literacy Volunteers of America (LVA). Wally Amos would make an appearance in Rochester in 1981 during the LVA national conference. 

Current statistics at the time of May 1979 were the following (according to the 1979 Annual Meeting Agenda)

  • 326 students being taught
  • 300 active tutors
  • 46 trainees in workshops


The 1980s marked a new decade for LVR as leadership changes occured, new programs were developed and launched, and students continued to learn essential literacy skills. 

Nancy Rickard (left) & Norma Reckhow (right)

Starting off, at the 1980 Annual Meeting, Norma Reckhow was elected president of LVR. Nancy Rickard held the position for four years and was the second president to serve that role for that many years. Norma Reckhow took over the position for four years as well and led LVR towards continued growth and improvement.

One program that launched in 1980 and gained traction throughout the decade was the Hospital Awareness Campaign. This campaign partnered with local hospitals including Rochester General Hospital and Strong Memorial Hospital to create materials for the program and train nurses and staff about how illiteracy can impact communication with patients. 


Another year, another 365 days of literacy achievements and service to the community. The entire year led up to the LVA National Conference which was hosted right here in Rochester. The conference was held from October 1st through 3rd. Over the weekend, different affiliates received recognitions and awards for their services. LVR was honored specifically for an outstanding newsletter among the affiliates. 

Display at the conference. You can see two scrapbooks with newspaper clippings on the table. These scrapbooks are still at the LR office.
Charles Brucken and Norma Reckhow
Nan Oster and Wally Amos


At the 1982 annual meeting, the board had the pleasure of having Ruth Colvin and her husband Bob in attendance. A total of 61 litvol members attended the meeting. After the official meeting, Ruth was a guest speaker and spoke of the challenges but also many success stories of expanding the literacy program. Specifically, she mentioned that 33 presidents or prime ministers around the world had received some level of literacy training. Being able to work with leaders on the topic of illiteracy helped global leaders become aware of the issue and enact policies and change.  

“she [Ruth] pointed out that ripples of LV were reaching all parts of our country” 

It was also in this year that LVR received its first donor designation funding through United Way. The annual budget grew to $10,000 and enabled the organization to create new programs in the coming years and expand further into the community.  

Ruth Colvin speaking at the 1982 Annual Meeting
Norma Reckhow; Jeanne Townsend; Roberta Bergen
Jane Platt at the 1982 Annual Meeting

Furthermore, LVR received a certificate of award from the Literacy Volunteers of New York State in recognition of LVR’s 17 years of service. 

What an amazing milestone at the time! And who knew LVR would eventually celebrate their 60th anniversary.


Another year of growth for LVR and its students. This year had many special events for students and volunteers to participate in such as Student Recognition Day and writing for the Pupil’s Pride newsletter. Keeping with tradition, Student Recognition Day was a celebration for the students and their achievements throughout the year. Programs including the Hospital Awareness Campaign continued to be spread awareness into the community about adult illiteracy. By the end of the year, LVR received a grant from B. Dalton Booksellers to purchase new books for the office library. The library collection grew significantly with the grant and allowed volunteers and students to have access to new reading materials.

Student Recognition Day
Annual Meeting
Norma Reckhow at the office
Volunteers at the office
Student Recognition Day

Recently, a piece of history was recovered and shared with Literacy Rochester. This letter was featured in a LitBits edition from 1983. Here’s what it reads.

Today I would like to thank the Literacy Volunteers because they help me a lot to read and write English.

Also I give my thanks to my tutors Mrs. Pamela Langdon, Mrs. Jeanne Townsend, and Mr. Donald Parker for their patience. They taught me how to read and write.

From the beginning it was hard for me but little by little I can now meet friends and communication with other people. Now I am the happiest person in the world. I have to tell every one who enters this country the first thing to do is to communicate with Literacy Volunteers. This way everybody will be happy and won’t suffer because they don’t know the language.

I thank them again and God bless all of them with plenty of love.”

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