Real Life Heroes: CoVa Giving Back Awards 2015

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life enrichment center norfolk3. Life Enrichment Center

230 W. Bute St., Norfolk. 757-623-6001.

Established: 2003

Mission: To provide educational, cultural, social and spiritual enrichment to children, youth and adults in under-served communities throughout Coastal Virginia. LEC fosters stable, nurturing support networks and reinforces a positive work ethic by providing critical support in parenting and life skills, early childhood development programs, computer basics, job readiness and literacy skills.

Key people: Kevin Turpin, founder and president; Wanda Turpin, office manager and director of school-based literacy programs; Sandra Christmas, school-based literacy coordinator

Programs: Literacy Tutoring Initiative—The Life Enrichment Center mobilizes, screens and trains individuals to tutor one child, one hour a week, for one academic year. LEC Summer Urban Youth Camp Academy—Six-week camp which emphasizes math, science, literacy, technology and music and the arts. Also includes several field trips. Old Dominion University is a major partner. They also have an Adult Literacy Tutoring Program and provide Title I elementary schools with needed technology, furniture, etc. to support the various special needs of children from-low income communities.

Volunteer opportunities: Literacy tutor, adult literacy tutor, summer program counselor. “We need more community involvement with churches and companies we can partner with,” says founder Kevin Turpin. “My hope is that we will be able to play a role in mobilizing the community.”

What are the biggest struggles your organization faces? “Recruiting tutors who can commit one hour a week for an academic year. Tutoring occurs during the school hours. Also, identifying funding sources to support our efforts.

Two out of three students who can’t read well by the end of fourth grade will end up in jail or on welfare.”

What is the most rewarding part about what your non-profit does? “Providing children with the tools needed to succeed in school. We also play a role in building the self-esteem of these children so they can discover their talents and abilities and develop a positive future outlook.

Every enlightened child has the potential of igniting life and light in the lives of many others in their community, city and nation. They will, indeed, one day be a part of ‘the village’ which helped them find success so they are empowered to do the same for another.” 

Read about our volunteer experience with Life Enrichment Center.


sinkinson dyslexia foundation4. Sinkinson Dyslexia Foundation, Inc.

3701 Pacific Ave., Suite 500, Virginia Beach. 757-437-0733.

Established: September 2008

Mission: “To teach children and adults who are dyslexic to read through professional assessments and one-to-one tutoring. Our tutoring program is based on the Orton-Gillingham, multi-sensory method of teaching reading, writing and spelling to individuals with deficient reading skills due to dyslexia.”

Key people: “Marie C. Sexton, M.Ed., president/CEO; Christin Rogers, COO; Sheri Knecht, office assistant; and all of our wonderful volunteers who commit their time to working with our students.”

Programs: “We provide free reading tutoring to children and adults who come from low to low-middle income families. All new students are screened and then carefully matched with a volunteer tutor. Our goal is to have our students reading above their grade level before they graduate from our services.

Our foundation’s other focus is to educate the community on dyslexia, a learning disability that frequently goes undiagnosed and is often misunderstood. Individuals with dyslexia are within the average or above average range of intellectual functioning. When an individual doesn’t receive the necessary accommodations and specialized instruction to remediate their dyslexia it can cause them to struggle academically and suffer emotionally. We are committed to informing parents and educators about the importance of early intervention.”

Volunteer opportunities: “Our tutors are all volunteers—they don’t have to be educators; however most have a college background. Volunteers are trained at our facility and asked to commit to staying with their student for a minimum of 60 hours and a maximum of 100 hours.”  

What are the biggest struggles your organization faces? “There are significant misunderstandings about dyslexia. But funding has become our greatest challenge. Our foundation struggles with securing financial support to continue maintaining and growing our services. It is stressful to know that we can do so much to change lives, but to not have the funding to reach more than just a handful of students a year with a part-time staff of only two.” 

What is the most rewarding part about what your non-profit does? “We are changing lives! Our students don’t have to go through the rest of their lives feeling like they aren’t as smart as their peers. We get to witness children who once hated reading enjoying books that are equal to their grade level and beyond, who discover that reading is something they truly love. And we get to see the parents who can’t believe their ears when their child says all he wants to do now is read.” 

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