Five Years of the Palmetto Literacy Council

To our tutors, volunteers, and students both past and present: You are all cordially invited to celebrate the Palmetto Literacy Council (PLC) at a ribbon-cutting commemorating our fifth anniversary on August 1 at 10:30 AM. The event, hosted by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, will be held in the parking lot of the PLC office, 1010 Fifth Avenue North in Surfside Beach

Moving a refrigerator.“This celebration is for all of you. Together, we are in the business of improving the lives of our students. Please join us,” said Dodi Hodges, executive director of PLC.

It all began on August 1, 2019, when the Palmetto Literacy Council first opened its doors, but in reality, the work began in the months prior—and what an immense amount of work it was (and still is). 

The spark that began in the heart of Dr. Dodi Hodges, (our executive director then and now), became first an ember, then a flame because of an ever-growing number of volunteers.

Moving a bookcase.“Tony Mackey, from the Chapin Foundation, is my mentor. She called me at the end of May 2019 and told me there was room in the area for a literacy council and I was the one to make it happen. Of course, that was very flattering to me, but it echoed what I’d been thinking for months.”

That phone call put Dodi on a trajectory to make it happen, no matter the difficulties.

In other words, that spark ignited Dodi to found a literacy non-profit that would serve both parents and children in Horry County.

MovingAccording to statistics, more than 22.4 percent of adults in the state have “low literacy” while 39 percent of fourth-graders are below the basic reading level.

“Those statistics need to improve. So, I talked it over with my husband, Mike, and we decided to sink some money into it and just do it. Then I went to a realtor in Surfside who said, ‘I think I’ve got a place for you.’ We also began requesting grants. 

August 1, 2019, was the date set to open the PLC doors. Dodi’s determination and perseverance went into overdrive (actually, five years later, Dodi is still in overdrive).

Palmetto Literacy Council display.“The Chapin Foundation sent us our first grant money. Our office was a 14×15-foot room with two desks. Donations for office furniture began to come in. Anne Rider came aboard as our first volunteer. Tori continued to mentor me for the first few years. I actually thought this was going to be a part-time job where I could take Fridays off. That was a pipe dream,” Dodi laughingly said. 

Building a curriculum for the tutors to use with students was a challenge. But Dodi’s skills (and PhD) in special education with a focus on organizational change, leadership, and curriculum and instruction, fit hand in glove with what was needed at PLC.

Dr. Dodi Hodges at workThe result: A room in the current PLC office that houses binders containing stories, worksheets, and lesson plans, each binder age-appropriate for the level that student is at. Those binders are maintained by volunteers. Math binders are also on hand for the students who need a little help in math, a curriculum that was also developed by Dodi.

“By year’s end PLC had 10 students, ages 5-37, being tutored at various libraries throughout the county. By March of 2020, PLC had 18 students being tutored, 37 requests for tutoring, and more than 40 volunteers willing to help in various capacities. I looked for help from wherever I could get it.” Thus, what began as a spark became an ember as Dodi pounded the pavement doing whatever possible to spread the word about PLC.

party timeThen COVID hit, and PLC, in its infancy, was forced to shut down on March 17 for six weeks. Despite the roadblocks, like the proverbial phoenix rising from the ashes, PLC persevered – and grew. 

As of June 2024, PLC has 59 active pairs (students paired with tutors) with an additional 34 volunteers who serve in other capacities. In short, PLC is on fire.

“Ensuring the fire has fodder – keeping PLC strong and vital — is the work of hundreds of people since May of 2019,” said Dodi.

“We would not exist, could not have grown without our volunteers. They give so generously of their time – in fact, in May (2024) our volunteers worked 271 hours. That’s amazing, and I am so grateful,” she said.

Kids listening to a story.But volunteers aren’t the only people responsible for the growing success of PLC.

“Since May of 2019, businesses, community members, parents of PLC students, and many more have helped us monetarily or by donating precisely what we needed at any given moment,” she said.

“Through the tough times, and in the good times, I truly believe that the universe will provide.”

And that it has, through the caring of volunteers and the community.

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