Project BEAR will join hundreds of volunteers across the United States to celebrate Make a Difference Day with a full day of literacy-themed community service concluding with a ribbon cutting at the new Little Free Library in Waverly at the YMCA.

Project BEAR is an AmeriCorps-funded program based out of Shawnee State University. Project BEAR’s Coordinator, Hayley Venturino, said “Project BEAR stands for Building Emerging and Achieving Readers and the mission is to enhance early literacy instruction for children birth to age five. Currently there are 17 Project BEAR members promoting early literacy in various capacities throughout South East Ohio.”

This year, Project BEAR partnered with EasterSeals Central and Southeast Ohio to promote the Governor’s partnership with the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. Through this partnership, there are two Project BEAR members serving Pike, Scioto, Jackson, Gallia, Meigs, Hocking, and Vinton counties, including Payton Reuter who assisted in coordinating the day’s events, promoting the Governor’s Imagination Library Program which is a book gifting program that mails free, high-quality children’s books to children from birth until they begin school, no matter their family’s income.

“This partnership with EasterSeals Central and Southeast Ohio provides an excellent opportunity for Shawnee State University to give back to the community and to continue building language and early literacy skills throughout Appalachia. The early years are critical in building the foundations young children need for success in school and life,” according to Amanda Hedrick, Director, Pre-Collegiate Programs and Initiatives at Shawnee State University.

The community is invited to participate in the ribbon cutting on Friday, October 23 at 4:30 p.m. The event will be outdoors. It is kindly asked that anyone attending over five years of age wear a mask and that all attendees practice social distancing.

Project BEAR is an AmeriCorps funded program. AmeriCorps programming is administered locally by ServeOhio, the state’s Commission on Service and Volunteerism. To learn more about AmeriCorps, visit To learn more about Project BEAR, contact Hayley Venturino at Shawnee State University at (740)351-3059.

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