Mr. Pig’s Book Nook at Piggly Wiggly in Hardeeville is an example of efforts by the GFWC of the Lowcountry to inspire literacy.

It’s not every day that an after-school program goes on a dolphin cruise, but that was one of the impacts a few members of a local women’s group had in the course of providing tutoring.

Edie Autouri and Alaine Peragallo, both of Bluffton, tutor at the Agape Family Life Center in Hardeeville. One of the lesson plans included a marine life unit featuring turtles, whales and other marine life. 

Autouri was inspired. She worked with Capt. Amber Kuehn of Spartina Marine Education Cruises to set up a cruise for the kids. Eight children and two Agape staff members went on a cruise with the volunteers.

“That was the culmination of our unit,” said Peragallo. “It was great, because the kids have lived in the area for a while, and none of them had been on a boat or on the water and been exposed to those things, so it was a wonderful experience for them.”

Volunteering at Agape is one of the ways the GFWC (Greater Federation of Women’s Clubs) of the Lowcountry is involved in raising literacy in the area. Members live in both Beaufort and Jasper counties, and many live in Sun City.

The GFWC is an international women’s organization dedicated to community improvement by enhancing the lives of others through volunteer service.

Several volunteers are former teachers, like Peragallo, who taught for 13 years. She missed the kids but said she didn’t necessarily want to go back into the classroom, so this is one of the ways she still gets to teach. 

Another program in which she and many others volunteer is Read Indeed, in partnership with United Way. 

Education and Libraries chairperson Karey Norris said it has been rewarding to recruit and recommend members and friends to tutoring children at Ridgeland Elementary and Red Cedar Elementary in Bluffton. They are just beginning tutoring kindergarten through fifth grade in Red Cedar and kindergarten through first in Ridgeland.

“Read Indeed is a national program, and their job is to scout out volunteers to go into the schools,” said Norris. “We’re with a child 25 minutes and then we get another child. … Next week, I see three different teachers and I will be helping with math as well as reading.”

The GFWC also wanted to do something at a library and contacted the Hardeeville branch. At the monthly story time, the volunteers expanded the program to include songs and crafts to go with the theme of the month, and gave out gift bags that include a snack and maybe some pencils, stickers, or stamps. 

“We’re excited about it because one of our members plays a guitar and will play songs, and my husband wants to bring percussion instruments for the kids to try, too,” Norris said. “We want to expand it and get the parents involved with this part of the education, and the kids can have a good time and learn. … Every child needs that one-on-one, someone to give them attention, and show them some love and encouragement. Everybody needs that, but especially kiddos.”

Gwyneth J. Saunders is a veteran journalist and freelance writer living in Bluffton.