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Game Helps Literacy Center Find New, Improved Home

What can you buy at a baseball game? Peanuts and Cracker Jacks, of course. And in this case, a new home for a local nonprofit.

The CQ Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game donates its proceeds each year to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington and the Washington Literacy Center.

Both organizations use the money to help with the upkeep of their operations. The Boys & Girls Clubs buy new sports equipment for, among other things and most appropriately, their baseball program. Players are outfitted with the gear they might not otherwise have access to, such as gloves, bats and helmets.

The WLC, which teaches adults to read and write, has in the past put the proceeds toward general resources. But the extra boost the baseball game affords has paid off big time this year: The organization is relocating and, for the first time, will have real classrooms.

“We couldn’t have done it without the Congressional Baseball Game’s support,” said Terry Algire, the group’s executive director. “Talk about bipartisan support and doing something fabulous. They’re helping adults move forward, help families, help them be part of a confident, competitive workforce.”

The Washington Literacy Center, approaching its 50th anniversary, previously operated out of the basement of a condo building, where only one classroom had a door and a storage closet was used as a teaching space. Before that, the organization was based in the basement of a church, where soundproofing was tenuous at best.

Clearly the group has been able to thrive over the years, even in less-than-ideal environs. But, as Algire put it, “they weren’t conducive to education or to teaching someone to read.”   

With extra funding thanks to the Congressional Baseball Game, the group was able to jump at the chance to claim space on the third floor of the Thurgood Marshall Center, the former home of the first full-fledged YMCA for African-Americans, which sits at the nexus of the U Street and Shaw neighborhoods.

The WLC moved into the new headquarters in March, and it will officially open its doors in July to the nearly 100 students who turn to the organization to help them learn the skills they missed out on in their earlier years.

Construction crews are still hard at work readying the space for students, putting up walls and laying down plaster. There’s a din of drilling and hammering, electrical wires run across the floors, and colorful crepe paper streamers are hanging from the ceiling for, if nothing else, a sense of beautification.

But Algire and the rest of the staff — three full-time employees, two part-time instructors, two AmeriCorps embeds and 92 volunteers — couldn’t be more excited.

During a recent visit, Algire conducted a short tour, pointing out the locations of the offices, the classrooms, the tutoring stations and the computer terminals.

The names of donors to the Washington Literacy Center will be displayed on the wall by the door.

“We’re calling that ‘Foundation of Success,’” she said. “We want all the students who come here to see the names of the people who are standing behind them.”

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