Helping Works

Helping Works by Anna Webb: Donate books for kids; artwork brightens childrens center at St. Luke’s

Anna Webb.
Anna Webb.

United Way of Treasure Valley is doing its part to reduce summer learning loss among local kids by hosting its first United Way Children’s Book Drive beginning June 15 across the Valley.

The Idaho Statesman lobby at 1200 N. Curtis Road in Boise is one of just several sites where you can drop new or gently used children’s books. You don’t have to wait until the 15th. The Statesman box is now accepting donations.

Studies have shown that during the summer, low-income students regress by more than two months in reading achievement while their middle-class peers make slight gains. The gap widens for low-income children each year that they progress towards high school graduation. Another alarming number: According to the Idaho Department of Education, 63 percent of low-income first-graders were reading at grade level in the spring of 2013. When they returned in the fall as second-graders, only 41 percent were reading at grade level.

The good news, and the reason for the drive, is that another study showed that reading four or five books over the summer can help prevent the decline in reading achievement scores between the spring and fall.

The drive continues through June 19. Find a full list of drop sites online. Email Robynn at for more information.

Volunteer drivers needed to transport cancer patients to treatment

The American Cancer Society provides free rides through its Road to Recovery program to make sure people receiving cancer treatment make it to their appointments. The agency is currently looking for volunteer drivers in Boise.

“The program not only helps patients, but is also rewarding for the volunteer. Several of our drivers have volunteered for a number of years,” said Renae Delucia, mission delivery program manager for the American Red Cross.

For additional information about the Road To Recovery program or to volunteer, call 1-800-ACS-2345 or visit

Local artist donates mosaic mural to St. Luke’s

The lobby of the St. Luke’s Children’s Specialty Center in Boise is a lot brighter these days thanks to the donation of a mosaic mural, 16 feet wide and 6 feet high.

The artist is Richard Herdegen, a retired software engineer who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2011 and has been a patient at St. Luke’s. Herdegen worked for more than 3,000 hours over the course of a year and a half to complete the piece, which includes sparkling skies, images of hot air balloons, children, a rainbow and more.

Increasing symptoms led to Herdegen’s retirement, but his passion for creating effervescent art has continued. He created the mosaic to share joy with children who are experiencing medical hardships. The 12-panel mural includes more than 90,000 pieces of glass.

The mural will provide a happy distraction for young visitors, said Katie Apple, director of operations for St. Luke’s Children’s.

“We are deeply grateful for this generous gift,” Apple said. “We are also grateful for the potential it has to give our young visitors an opportunity to dream and fuel their imaginations while looking at these vibrant images.”

Idaho Women’s Charitable Foundation announces 2015 grant recipients

The Idaho Women’s Charitable Foundation has distributed $163,500 in grants to six nonprofits. The grant process was new this year, with increased amounts awarded and an option for recipients to spread their grants over periods of up to three years.

For 2015, grants went to:

•  The Cancer Connection Idaho: $20,000 to the Write from the Heart essay contest for teens with cancer, or with family or friends with cancer (recently featured in this column). In 2016, The Cancer Connection Idaho will publish a book containing the teens’ winning essays. The program will also add writing mentors to the program.

•  Life’s Kitchen Inc.: $30,000 to the Life Skills and Employability Training Project. Life’s Kitchen trainees will learn skills to live as independent young adults and job skills. They also will complete their high school diploma equivalent, earn professional food industry certification and enjoy mentorship to improve their sense of self-worth and the ability to set and accomplish life goals.

•  Council School District: $23,500 to the Council Rural Environmental Stewardship Team. The grant will bring together Council’s school, community and area industry to create a sustainable, environmentally friendly park and pond. Students will be able to apply inquiry-based learning to real watershed problems, as well as gain job skills, receive training in job application and meet forest industry employers.

•  Good Samaritan Home: $30,000 to its Building Renovation Repair Beautification Project. The 72-year-old Good Samaritan Home will receive much-needed improvements to its 18,800-square-foot facility, which houses low-income veterans, seniors, and men and women with disabilities, residents who would otherwise struggle to find a safe, affordable place to live. The grant will help pay for much-needed repairs, including the replacement of worn flooring in main traffic areas.

•  Feed the Gap Inc: $30,000 to its Safety Net for Hungry Children in Boise Schools program to close the food gap for 8,000 children who would otherwise go hungry because of their parents’ financial instability.

•  Idaho Children’s Trust Fund: Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Initiative: $30,000 to pay for a coordinator and workbooks for training 22,500 adults in the Treasure Valley how to prevent sexual abuse by using the research-based curriculum “Stewards of Children.” Research has shown that reaching this number is the tipping point for changing behavior, which must be done to address the most prevalent health problem children face.

Letters of Intent for the 2015–2016 grant cycle will be accepted online beginning in August, with a deadline of early October. Call 343-IWCF for more information, or visit the website.

Anna Webb: 377-6431; Twitter: @IDS_AnnaWebb