Coast Guard and First Book-Hampton Roads partner to promote literacy

PORTSMOUTH, Va. – Coast Guard active duty and civilian personnel from several Hampton Roads area commands teamed up with First Book-Hampton Roads to promote literacy to local elementary school students, Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2008.

The Coast Guard and First Book-Hampton Roads personnel delivered 500 free, age appropriate books, and read to students at Brighton Elementary School in Portsmouth, Children’s Harbor in Chesapeake and Mount Zion Elementary School in Suffolk.

Coast Guard personnel and representatives of First Book-Hampton Roads were extremely enthusiastic about planning and participating in the event.

“We are delighted to partner with First Book-Hampton Roads to help bring joy to children in our community through reading and books,” said Capt. Patrick Trapp, Commanding Officer of Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads.

Trapp along with Capt. Stephen Andersen, Commanding Officer of Coast Guard Integrated Support Command Portsmouth, worked with First Book-Hampton Roads to make today’s event a success.

“I was amazed at how magnetic the volunteer’s presence was in the classrooms. It didn’t take long for the students to gather around the reader and become totally absorbed into the story. It was also fun to see the children’s reaction to the books that were personally given to them by First Book,” said Andersen.

The Coast Guard volunteers were delighted by the response they received from the students.

Louttit was one of many Coast Guard active duty and civilian employees who participated in the Coast Guard and First Book-Hampton Roads efforts to promote literacy and deliver free books to students in southeast Virginia.

“You could see the children were very interested. They were glad we were there and their positive feedback made this event very rewarding,” said Capt. Kip Louttit, Deputy Commander of Maintenance and Logistics Command Atlantic in Norfolk.

Louttit also thought that the interaction with new people provided the students with a great learning opportunity.

“We were new and different,” said Louttit. “Teachers are wonderful, but new faces add spice to the class. Events like this are important for the CG to participate in because contributing to the education of youth in America may help them stay in school, stay out of trouble, be successful, and potentially join the CG someday.”

Senior Chief Petty Officer Brett VerHulst echoed Louttit’s sentiments.

“Interacting with the students was a lot of fun. Giving back to the community where we work is extremely important,” said VerHulst

“In the past, my wife and I have volunteered to help out with various projects, including reading to the kids at the schools my children attend; this is the first time I volunteered at a school my kids were not attending,” said VerHulst. “It was cool to tell a sea story or two – but also to listen to the kids; they are pretty smart, and I am thankful we have such dedicated professionals teaching them.”

Greta Harrison and Co-Chair Stan Winarski, and members of First Book-Hampton Roads spent a great deal of time preparing for the event and are devoted to providing children in the community with access to age appropriate books that are essential to reading development.

“In order for all children to love reading and learning it is essential that they have access to books. With the help of leaders in our community like the Coast Guard, more children will receive more books to take home and learn the joy of reading,” said Harrison.

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