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President's Special Project

ESC Dictionary Mtn Park Girl #4.jpg

The Dictionary Project

The Dictionary Project began in 1992 when Annie Plummer of Savannah, Georgia, gave 50 dictionaries to children who attended a school near her home. Each year she continued to give this gift, raising money to help give more and more books so that in her lifetime she raised enough money to buy 17,000 dictionaries for children in Savannah. Early on, her project attracted the attention of Bonnie Beeferman of Hilton Head, S.C., who began a project of raising money by selling crafts to buy dictionaries for the schoolchildren of Hilton Head and the surrounding communities.


By 1995, Bonnie was getting so many requests from local teachers to be included in the project that she wrote a letter to the editor of the Charleston Post and Courier explaining the project and asking for someone to help meet requests from the Charleston area. Mary French, who was already an active school volunteer even though her two children were still of preschool age, read the letter and decided this was a project for her. Starting with a few schools in Charleston and Summerville, she realized quickly that providing dictionaries to all the students in Charleston was going to require serious fundraising. She and her late husband Arno French formed a 501(c)(3) nonprofit Association in 1995, along with a Board of Directors. Arno served as president, Mary became the director of the Association, and The Dictionary Project was born.

The original goal set by the board was to provide dictionaries to all third-grade students in South Carolina every year. This goal was achieved in 1999. After The Wall Street Journal published a story about the project in March 2002, the Dictionary Project took on a national purpose and expanded its mission to include students in the 50 United States. The program is typically implemented in the third grade each year, since this is the age at which dictionary skills are usually taught and this is a critical time where students are transitioning from 'Learning to Read" into "Reading to Learn".

The dictionaries are a gift and resource for the children to keep.  Students can use the dictionaries throughout their school careers. Each year a new edition of the dictionary is offered that has been improved by sharing suggestions from teachers, students, and parents with the publisher. These and other ideas are received from sponsors, students, and teachers are an integral part of this project. 

The Dictionary Project is funded through donations and sponsors who introduce the program in their local schools. The Dictionary Project is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization, registered as a charity in all 50 states.

Doing What’s Needed

What is a first night bag?  A backpack, duffle bag or suitcase that symbolizes that kids coming into foster care are worth being treated with love and dignity. A first night bag is a bag that is gender and age appropriate that contains everything a child would need for an overnight stay such as underwear, socks, pajamas, diapers, wipes, a bottle, formula, blanket, toothbrush toothpaste, shampoo, a comb, notebook, pencil, stuffed animal or doll.

Who can receive that first night bag? Any child coming into foster care or changing homes to go to a new foster parent or to a group or residential home. The public are able to pack a bag that is gender and age specific for a child entering foster care.  Often, the first night is the hardest for a foster child. The child does not know where they will be sleeping and oftentimes arrive at their new foster placement with only the clothes on their back. Many times, the child doesn’t receive any other items (if they get any at all) until after the first 24- 48 hours. This leaves children without bare essentials.

With this heartbreaking issue in mind, Clarksville Women's Club developed an emergency kit called "CWC 1st Night Bags".   These bags are a luggage item filled with immediate necessities for children and teens entering into foster care. Children receiving one of our bags will have all of the essential items they will need to get through the first 24-48 hours, including a comfort item.

In order to continually be able to provide CWC 1st Night Bags, we hope to encourage our community, churches, local organizations and area businesses to engage in “drives” to help support, collect and provide the materials and items for our bags. 

President's Project

"Living the Volunteer Spirit"

Clarksville Women's Club
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