Daily Point of Light # 2766 Sep 10, 2004

Karen DeVane is Orange City’s “2004 Volunteer of the Year”. During her community service time, Mrs. DeVane realized there was a great need for children to have the opportunity to build a strong foundation for their future and being able to read is a major cornerstone. She and her family wanted to find a way to encourage children to read and provide children with their own personal books to read at home.

Mrs. DeVane and her family created a solution by starting Guarnteed Involvement For Teachers & Students, Inc. (GIFTS), a registered Charity with the State of Florida. Only two years old (and all volunteers), GIFTS was selected in April 2004 as United Way & Bright House Network’s “2003 Education Volunteer of the Year”. GIFTS is successful at meeting the need because it brings together a diverse group of volunteers to achieve what most would never attempt, GIFTS currently have 12 elementary schools in their classroom supply program located in Deltona, DeLand, Enterprise & Orange City, FL.

Mrs. DeVane and her family have met every challenge, devoted extraordinary amounts of time and initiative to accomplish their goal. They hold the fervent belief that a successful public school education insures the continuation of vibrant, informed and democratic society. This is possible when children are able to read.

GIFTS book distribution program has enhanced the reading material in the homes of students in TItle One schools throughout Volunsia County. GIFTS volunteers have unloaded, sorted, stacked, bagged and boxed truckloads of books, received from FIRSTBOOK, a National Book Bank program. Volusia County’s School District ais GIFTS with this project by providing a warehouse and delivery of the boxes of books for the children. To date, GIFTS has distributed over 179,000 books, worth a staggering $1,274,517 to 65,547 students in Kindergarten through 12th grade.

GIFTS volunteers put in over 500 hours to make over 119,300 flashcards (by hand) of the high intensity sight words for kindergarten thru 3rd grade requested by four schools.

Another project to aid students’ ability to read is a “Whisper” phone. To date GIFTS volunteers have assembled 9,812 PVC phones for 36 elementary schools, 1 middle and 1 High school English class (to learn poetry). Bright House Networks was a major contributor to this project, donating $2,500 to help increase reading and fluency and skills.

Mrs. DeVane, her husband, Bill, along with their youngest daughter, Joeele, speak to civic organizations and businesses throughout the county to gain financial support, both monetary and in-kind, needed for the various expenses incurred for GIFTS program, the organization received grants from Progress Energy ($15,000) for classroom supplies, $2,000 twice from the City of Deltona, a $500 mini-grant from FUTURES and $1,000 from Ormond Beach West Rotary for four elementary school in their area.

Mrs. DeVane has stated, “We feel that the community’s support and our volunteers are the backbone and strength of a healthy community and continue to make it possible for our organization to help the children build their reading skills through books, flashcards, and “Whisper” phones. We deeply appreciate their enthusiasm and commitment and together we can ‘Make a Difference’ in the lives of our children.”