MARC Receives Grant from GACF

The Montcalm Area Reading Council (MARC) is pleased to announce it has received a grant from the Greenville Area Community Foundation, awarded from the Grace Sagendorf Education Fund. These funds will support the purchase of a new multifunction printer for the MARC office.

Established in 1986, the Montcalm Area Reading Council is a nonprofit, community-based organization offering free literacy services to benefit the greater Montcalm County area. Learners of all ages meet one-on-one with trained volunteer tutors to improve their skills in reading, writing, and speaking English. The new printer will assist with promoting MARC services, expanding programming, and providing training and resources to MARC tutors.

“MARC is grateful to have the support of GACF. Updating our equipment will help us be more efficient so more learners can be served, and we look forward to extending this benefit to our community,” said Kristen Kohn, Executive Director of MARC. “Literacy education provides opportunities for personal fulfillment, career success, civic engagement, and safer, healthier individuals who enhance the quality of life on our community. MARC is here to help all members of our community achieve their literacy goals.”

The Montcalm Area Reading Council, through dedicated volunteers, community partners and resources, provides free literacy education to the greater Montcalm area. MARC ensures all people have the opportunity to learn to read, write, and speak in English, compute and solve problems proficiently to achieve one’s goals, develop one’s knowledge, and reach one’s full potential.

How to Help a Struggling Reader

With over 36 million US adults struggling to read and write above a third grade level (, chances are you have recently crossed paths with someone who has literacy issues. Maybe it is your co-worker, a neighbor, or a patient in your doctor’s waiting room. Illiteracy is a closely guarded secret, and can be challenging to identify. Here is a list from the Education Development Center describing common behaviors of persons with literacy issues:

1. Has extremely poor spelling skills.
2. Uses excuses like, “I forgot my glasses.” when asked to read.
3. Tends to go to the same few restaurants and order the same thing.
4. Orders what someone else has ordered or asks the server for suggestions at unfamiliar restaurants.
5. Carries a book, newspaper or magazine, but doesn’t read it.
6. Avoids filling out forms or asks to take the form home to fill out.
7. Conducts most business in cash and often prefers to pay bills in person.
8. Resists writing lists or notes instead relies on memory
9. Foregoes promotion opportunities at work or avoids looking for another job
10. Stays in a comfort zone: shops the same stores, buys the same products, and travels the same routes.
11. Shows up really early or too late because they cannot read a calendar or appointment card.
12. Avoids social situations, feels a sense of desperation or shame.

If you suspect someone is struggling with literacy issues, here are some ways you can help:

1. Be aware! Learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of low literacy.
2. Be sensitive. If comfortable, broach the subject with discretion and mention you have noticed the issues.
3. Be thoughtful with word choice. Suggest they might like to “refresh their skills” and refer them to MARC for help. Offer to help make an appointment or guide them in contacting the office.

MARC provides free, confidential literacy services to benefit the greater Montcalm County area, working with dedicated volunteers and community partners to ensure all people have the opportunity to read, write, speak in English, and compute and solve problems proficiently.  MARC is dedicated to the principle that all people should be functionally literate.



MARC Tutor awarded the William Cook Spirit of Learning Award

The Montcalm Area Reading Council (MARC) has presented Christina Carpenter with the William Cook Spirit of Learning Award.

MARC held a reception to announce the renaming of the organization’s annual award in memory of the William Cook, a longtime MARC Board member and supporter. The award will be given annually to an individual demonstrating a dedication to literacy and an enthusiasm for continued education.

“Christina was a perfect fit for the award. She works hard and is committed to MARC.This is the model Mr. Cook set for us and we are pleased to honor his legacy with this award,” stated Kristen Kohn, MARC’s Executive Director.

Christina Carpenter, with Harriette Cook and Kristen Kohn

MARC Board Secretary Shirley Pyle shared, “Bill was so dedicated to MARC and the concept of one-on-one tutoring so it is fitting that a tutor who works diligently, as Chrissy does, be recognized with this award named in his honor. I’m pleased Harriette Cook could be at the presentation ceremony. Bill always gave her at least half the credit for everything their partnership accomplished.”

Since 1986, the Montcalm Area Reading Council has provided free literacy education to benefit the greater Montcalm area. MARC is dedicated to the principle that all people should be functionally literate. To become a volunteer tutor, please visit or call 616-754-1391 ext 4.


A Tribute to Bill Cook

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Bill Cook, Champion of Literacy

Long time Montcalm Area Reading Council (MARC) board member and board member emeritus Bill Cook passed away on January 10th, 2018.  Bill and his family were instrumental in funding and leading the Montcalm Adult Reading Council (later renamed to Montcalm Area Reading Council) in the early days of the organization; the non-profit was formed in 1986.  The Cook family understood the powerful impact that literacy skills have on individual lives as well as entire communities.

Bill was dedicated to making literacy assistance available in the greater Montcalm county community.  Bill was one of a group that initially visualized providing literacy assistance at no cost, to any that needed it.  Bill was very aware of the power of one-on-one personal relationships and was a strong advocate for one-on-one training.

This founding group understood that improved literacy skills open doors for employment, enrich parent-child-school interactions, lead to higher education, and enhance community participation— in short, increased literacy skills create much more successful lives for individuals, families and their surrounding communities.  Bill always put his community at the forefront and worked to strengthen it.

Bill served tirelessly–seeking the best location for a MARC office, recruiting board members, advocating and sharing the good news of MARC whenever possible.  Bill was involved with many different community organizations, and encouraged liaisons with these organizations and MARC whenever possible.  

At a time when the fledgling organization was floundering financially, Bill and Harriette Cook made a substantial donation to the Greenville Area Community Foundation, earmarking the interest for MARC.  That funding, along with support from the community during annual fund drives, has been vital to MARC’s continual operation.

Bill Cook, Volunteer of the Year 2011

Bill was committed to MARC   He faithfully attended board meetings and special MARC events.  He was secretary of the organization for many years serving on the board from 1998-2014.  Accepting that the board was not ready to let him retire, Bill served in emeritus status and actively attended meetings until the time of his passing. Bill was a valuable board member in so many ways.  His broad thinking, great problem solving and listening skills, as well as his ability to relate well to others were wonderful assets for MARC.  Bill constantly looked for opportunities to expand MARC.  He was dedicated to always trying new ways to reach those who were in need of literacy assistance.

To say Bill will be missed is a vast understatement.  Bill’s contributions to MARC were priceless and beyond compare.  Bill’s presence, ideas and commitment kept the heartbeat of MARC strong and steady. With Bill as a model and ongoing inspiration, MARC will continue to move forward and help create successful readers and leaders throughout the Montcalm area.

Celebrate Giving Tuesday

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are all about shopping and sales. But since its launch in 2012, Giving Tuesday is a day dedicated to celebrating and encouraging generosity. On Tuesday, Nov. 28, thoughts shift from consumerism to compassion, as local organizations and communities come together to give. Giving Tuesday empowers even the smallest act of philanthropy, whether you volunteer for a local charity or donate to a valuable cause.

Are you looking to join the Giving Tuesday movement? Consider giving to the Montcalm Area Reading Council (MARC). Dedicated to the principle that all people should be functionally literate, MARC provides free literacy education benefiting the greater Montcalm County area. Our aim for the coming year is to expand our impact within Montcalm County and grow our workforce literacy outreach.

Illiteracy is a crisis that contributes to unemployment, poor health, incarceration and poverty in our community. Everyday tasks like filling out a medical form or helping a child with homework are difficult when you cannot read. Through one-on- one tutoring support, MARC offers hope to those who are working to improve their lives through literacy.

Will you join with us? Here are the ways you can give:

 Volunteer your time and become a tutor. Share the joy of learning with others.

 Donate online at or send your gift to Montcalm Area Reading Council, 200 W. Judd St., Greenville, MI 48838. Through generous community donors, all donations made on Giving Tuesday will be matched up to $1,000. That means your donation will automatically be matched – or double – through this opportunity.

On Nov. 28, celebrate Giving Tuesday and support the work of the wonderful nonprofits in our area. Whether it is your time, your talent, or your resources, the need is great. Together we can make a difference.