Literacy efforts in Lee County will take an exciting new direction soon with the merger of its two major literacy groups.

Literacy Volunteers of Lee County, based in Fort Myers, is merging into the Literacy Council of Bonita Springs, creating a new expanded organization that will bring more literacy programs to the people of the county. After all legal framework is completed for the Literacy Volunteers merger, the organization will be known as the Literacy Council Gulf Coast.

Susan Acuna, executive director of the Literacy Council of Bonita Springs, will serve as executive director of the new organization, and Jim Kahl, president of its board of directors, will continue in that post with the new entity.  Douglas Harrison, LVLC president, will join four other LVLC board members on the Board of the new agency.  Harrison will chair the Program and Curriculum Committee. Tess Murphy, LVLC Executive Director, will remain on staff as Director of Grants and Special Projects.

“Both agencies have skills and experiences that will enhance the other’s programs and services,” Acuna said.  “Each agency brings to this process a shared vision of literacy as a life skill that transforms the lives and communities of those who learn to read, write and speak English.”

“This merger secures the long-term viability of LVLC’s adult literacy programs into the future,” Harrison said, “and allows for the expansion of both agencies.”

The Literacy Council of Bonita Springs, a non-profit agency founded in 1989, serves more than 2,500 students, making it one of the largest literacy organizations in the country. Its popular Carol DeJoy Moms and Tots Family Literacy program serves more than 900 mothers and their children at seven locations, including its building at 26820 Old 41 Rd. in Bonita Springs. Approximately 600 volunteers assist the council in teaching group and individual classes in English language, pronunciation, writing, conversation, computer classes, GED readiness and U.S. citizenship. The agency also offers worksite literacy programs at 11 area golf communities and at the Grande Oak Publix in Estero. Programs are funded by United Way, grants and individual donations.

LVLC was also founded in the 1989 and brings to the table its expertise in providing a literacy program for English-speaking adults (those with dyslexia and those who never learned to read), speakers of other languages and its financial and health literacy programs. LVLC serves more than 650 adults with 130 tutors and partners with 20-30 other nonprofits to provide adult literacy services to their clients.

Acuna said bringing the two organizations together will strengthen existing programs and even out a provision of services. The new group will be able to provide additional programs to existing students, while also adding new students, she said.