For the past few years, the Molina Foundation and Michigan State University Extension have been working to place books in the hands of children living in low-income situations and enhance literacy levels of Michigan’s children. Since 2011, the Molina Foundation has donated and MSU Extension has distributed about 250,000 books to Michigan children.
This past summer, MSU Extension educators and program coordinators received 30,000 new children’s books to give to Michigan children. They handed out the books at community events, elementary school open houses, Project FRESH, outreach programs for children in migrant camps, county fairs, Operation: Military Kids events, summer camps and more, reaching thousands of children with the gift of free books.
This type of program gives children access to age-appropriate books that they otherwise may not have had.
One MSU Extension staff member said, “Many of the individuals who received the books were quite emotional when told the books were theirs to keep and they were free. That had never happened for them before. And more than a few little ones said they never had a storybook before and couldn’t wait to start reading. They obviously had a love for books, just hadn’t had too many opportunities to hold one.”
MSU Extension staff members who provided leadership for this effort include Jodi Schulz, Bay County educator; Jodi Wrzesinski, Bay County 4-H program coordinator; Theresa Silm, Clinton County educator; and Carrie Shrier, Livingston County educator.
The Molina Foundation received a key partner award at Fall Extension Conference this year for its continued work with MSU Extension and dedication to improving literacy in Michigan.
You can tell how committed someone is by their willingness to suffer through miserable conditions to participate in an annual meeting. The annual meeting of the partners who created and watch over Project GREEEN (Generating Research and Extension to meet Economic and Environmental Needs) was held last week on a hot evening in an even hotter room at the Kellogg Center. It turned out the air conditioning had not been functioning at the Kellogg Center, and opening the doors to the patio didn’t provide much relief. Even so, the partners—representatives of the Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA), many plant commodity groups, MAES, and MSUE—seemed to enjoy the company and the abbreviated program. A few even lingered after the meeting ended, though quite a few of us quickly exited to find relief in the air conditioned interiors of our cars.
Project GREEEN is a model partnership for us in that it demonstrates the importance of relationships between our MSU organizations and the industries and their representative organizations—government and private—we serve. The initial funding for Project GREEEN was enacted by the Michigan L\legislature in 1998 in response to grower demand (45 plant-based commodity groups) for further investments in scientific research and extension on behalf of the plant-based industries in Michigan. And in furtherance of the spirit of responsiveness and accountability, the oversight of Project GREEEN was divided three ways: between the MDA, MAES and MSUE Directors. In addition, the plant industry is involved in the annual process that allocates funds for research and extension first by having the industry representatives stating their priorities in three categories: basic research, applied research, and extension. Faculty and educators develop proposals to address the priorities stated by the plant-based industries, and then review panels that include faculty, educators, administrators, MDA staff and representatives of commodity groups help to evaluate and prioritize the proposals for funding. To close the loop, an annual report of Project GREEEN accomplishments is required to be submitted to the legislature and all of the partners.
Like all of our programs, funding for Project GREEEN is limited and requires careful stewardship. However, the involvement of our partners in the key decisions we make regarding that stewardship helps to ensure that our work is on target in addressing the most critical needs of Michigan’s plant-based industries. There’s much for us to learn from this model that can be applied to other programs we carry out jointly with MAES and other partners.