Literacy Council moves into its new space off State Route 305

POULSBO — Over the last five years, Lois Muse has seen countless people get a new lease on life through the GED program she teaches with her husband, Del.

Just one of the many free programs offered by the Literacy Council of Kitsap, the program graduates about 16 people each year. Some of their students are teenage high school dropouts. Others are adults trying to make their lives better.

“They’re out there trying to make a living and they find their skills just don’t cut it,” Muse explained.

Now the council has a new lease, too — a literal one.

After announcing in March that the program was about to lose its space at the Poulsbo Marine Science Center, it has found a new home. The non-profit now rents two rooms in the bottom floor of the State Route 305 building that also houses Jennifer’s Hair & Face Salon and the new Big Hugs consignment shop.

“We’re really excited,” Literacy Council Executive Director Paul Drzewiecki said. “We just moved in a couple weeks ago. We don’t even have our signs up yet.”

Though not much, the new Poulsbo location does afford the council more room than its previous space in a converted hallway in the upstairs of the MSC. It is private and allows the program to store more materials on site. An individual also recently donated a picnic table to the council so students and teachers can work outside during nice weather.

“It’s an increase in space for us. It’s not huge but it works,” Drzewiecki said. “We do everything we need to do there.”

The Literacy Council of Kitsap, a 501(c)3 entity, has been working in the community for 25 years. It offers free assistance in GED and diploma preparation, workplace training, basic literacy, English as a second language and computers. Currently, the program boasts 460 students county-wide, who are served by 174 volunteers. Among those are 123 North Kitsap and Bainbridge Island students. Of the North Kitsap and Bainbridge Island residents in the program, to date:

•28 ESL students have improved their English skills by one or more levels and two have earned U.S. citizenship

•More than 30 completed computer literacy training

•15 passed GED testing and graduated

The Poulsbo office is home to about 50 volunteers, including the Muses, who run the GED program. Though many North End communities are considered “privileged” areas, Lois Muse said she’s noticed a great need for literacy services in the area.

“I think the benefit is enormous,” Muse said of the council’s work. “The call for GED completion in the North End is immense.”

And while the Poulsbo office primarily serves residents from the Poulsbo, Bainbridge Island and Kingston areas, Muse said she recently had a student come from as far away as Port Orchard to attend her class because, at the time, it was the only evening GED course available.

And while program organizers are pleased to have found a new Poulsbo home, there is a financial reality to their situation. Additional rent, phone and electricity costs at the new space are expected to raise the program’s annual costs from $4,500 to $7,500 this year. The program is mostly run by donations from sources like United Way, the Kitsap Community Foundation and Bainbridge Island Foundation organizers are hoping to find more donations soon to help cover the added expenses.

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