Sharon McConnell joined the Rotary Club of Belleville in April of 2006.  She had just retired from a 32-year career with the Arthritis Society in Toronto, before relocating back to Belleville.   During her time with the Club, she was very active with various activities, but the most memorable of her roles was as chair of the Literacy Committee.  As a special thank you for her many years of Service Above Self, the Rotary Club of Belleville is pleased to present Sharon with a Paul Harris Fellow + 2. (pictured Rotary Club of Belleville President Darrell Smith, Rotarian Ray McCoy, Paul Harris recipient Sharon McConnell and District Governor Iosif Ciosa).
 
During Wilf Wilkinson’s term as International President, Literacy was added as a separate area of focus for Rotary Clubs around the world.  In 2006, the same year that Sharon joined the Rotary Club of Belleville, the Club formed its first literacy committee.  One of the major projects undertaken by the Committee in 2008 was a one-on-one tutoring program or Each One Teach One, designed to help children who were struggling with reading and where commercial tutoring was not manageable for the families involved.  The YMCA was recruited as a partner and Sharon managed the project.  Tutors were recruited from a variety of sources – Rotarians, high schools, Volunteer Information Quinte, radio public service ads, word of mouth.  Students were referred through the YMCA and local schools.  The tutors were trained, then matched up with a student.  Tutors were supervised and provided with ongoing support from the project manager.  Tutoring took place at the YMCA, with two separate one-hour sessions per week with each student.
Space within the YMCA quickly became an issue and limited the number of students that could be enrolled.  In 2011, the Rotary Club acquired from the Board of Education a portable classroom that was no longer in use.  It was transported to its new location, at the rear of the YMCA, and a team of Rotarians cleaned, painted and repaired the portable.  At this point, we were able to increase the enrolment to 25 students/tutors.
 
The program ran from 2008 to 2018 and during that time we helped approximately 100 students – all of whom were struggling with reading at time of enrolment.  The goal was to help them get caught up to their grade level.  This was a low-cost education program (approx. $500/yr for supplies we purchased at cost plus a few thousand one-time expenditure for delivery of the portable classroom) that had a very high success rate and is a contribution to our community that our Rotary Club can be proud of.
Sharon was successful in obtaining a global grant under the literacy project umbrella in Bangladesh.  It was a large grant of $73,000 U.S. over a five year span of 2015 to 2020.  Two Rotary Clubs co-sponsored the project -- the Rotary Club of Belleville and the Rotary Club of Dhaka Midtown along with the Amarok Society as a partner.  Overall the funding came from three Districts with eleven Clubs providing funds, including Belleville.  The funds raised were matched by the Districts and the Rotary International Global Fund. 
 
The outcomes of the project included 700 mothers who acquired digital skills, the goal was 500 as well as 3,675 children, goal was 2,500.
Do you recall the Christmas Ham Sales?  Over the duration of the program,   Ray McCoy and Sharon McConnell co-chaired the program for eight years!  Other commitments Sharon made to the Club were a time on the Rotary Music Festival Committee as well as a work weekend at Camp Merrywood.
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