Caring for our community
English Empowerment Center
Empowering English language learners
Right Instructor Jackie Park teaches an English class. (Photo: English Empowerment Center). Left: Betty Gillen presents her donation to the English Empowerment Center. (Photo: MainStreet Bank)
The English Empowerment Center—formerly known as the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia—is near and dear to Betty Gillen, a business banking portfolio manager who was once a volunteer tutor for the organization. She developed an appreciation of the courage and determination newcomers bring to the American experience while teaching immigrants who needed to build their English language skills.
“People come to this country with hardly anything,” Betty explained, noting that immigrants turn to organizations like the English Empowerment Center to help them get settled. “I wanted to be part of providing that help. It’s something I feel drawn to, because I have been blessed, and I can offer that blessing to others.”
Betty, who joined MainStreet Bank in 2019 and works at headquarters, committed a portion of her Making Change dollars to the English Empowerment Center. She noted that it is not just a great community organization, but also a MainStreet Bank client.
The organization was established in 1962. Since then, it has taught basic English language skills to over 60,000 individuals. It serves adults whose English proficiency is at or below a 6th grade level, some of whom may be illiterate in their native languages.
“Our usual 12-week session costs the learner $85 for training and all materials, and it costs us over $1,000 a learner to provide it,” said Michael Mahrer, Senior Director of Advancement at the English Empowerment Center. “ The only way we can keep our costs that low is through contributions.”
The organization serves students through 18 locations across Northern Virginia. It depends on volunteers, whose time commitments range from two to three hours once a quarter to multiple hours per week.
The need for services is only growing, Michael added. “We’ve served 1,900 people in our current fiscal year, which ends June 30.”
When COVID hit, the Center pivoted from offering in-person classes to online classes. Now it offers both, which enables it to reach people who might have been deterred from attending class because of work schedules and transportation and childcare limitations.
Betty said she was pleased to be able to commit her first Making Change contribution to the organization. “I encourage my colleagues to learn more about the English Empowerment Center and the important work they do in our community.”
To learn more about English Empowerment Center visit englishempowermentcenter.org