The Church News is featuring "Relief Society Moments" in commemoration of the organization's 150th anniversary, March 17, 1992, to highlight acts of service through Relief Society.
The thought of writing a letter to a friend was terrifying to Sister Jacque Shoto, an elderly sister in the Hyde Park Ward, Chicago Heights Illinois Stake. She would always say she didn't write letters and used the telephone instead. But it wasn't that she didn't like to write letters. She didn't know how - until she participated in the Hyde Park Ward's literacy program.Growing up in the South in the early 1900s, Sister Shoto's education was limited to only a few years. She taught herself many things through the years, but spelling, grammar and sentence structure remained a mystery to her. It wasn't until full-time literacy missionaries moved into her ward two years ago that she felt it was time to get assistance. The missionaries, an older couple, taught Sister Shoto how to spell, compose sentences and how to pronounce words correctly. Not only did she learn to write letters, but she gained self-confidence.
The Hyde Park Ward's literacy program came about after a Relief Society sister saw a need. The sister had visited a family with a child who was "becoming lost" in the public school system. From there the idea of a literacy committee grew into an extraordinary pioneering effort that is still affecting members' lives today.
Members of the Hyde Park Ward, located in the inner city of Chicago, face many of the problems endemic to city living. But through the efforts of ward members, those problems seem more surmountable.
The literacy program in the ward has emerged into a Saturday morning tutoring program in all subjects for elementary and high school students. Ward members volunteer as tutors. Students also have access to a computer, donated to the ward literacy program, which they use mainly for math.
Full-time missionaries have helped push the program further along. They work with members 14 years of age or older to help them improve their reading skills, and to train others to be tutors. The missionaries also work with adults who want to improve their speaking or writing skills.
Those members who have the desire to learn and the endurance to keep at it have been blessed to have a new world open up to them. - Mary Fullmer and Janis Parker, Hyde Park (Chicago) Ward
(Another in a series of "Relief Society Moments." Illustration by Deseret News artist Reed McGregor.)