United Way donates 500 backpacks to parish students

School board member Russ Danzy, transportation director Jason Edwards and board member Mike Hilton unload backpacks before the board’s committee meeting Tuesday. United Way of Northwest Louisiana and Alpha Kappa Sorority supplied 500 backpacks for students K-12 in Natchitoches Parish.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library provides books for early childhood literacy

By Carolyn Roy


School board member Emile Metoyer knows first hand about one of the efforts by the United Way of Northwest Louisiana to address childhood literacy and get kids ready for kindergarten.

Metoyer’s grandson, Roman Collins, 1, participates in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (DPIS), a program to address early childhood literacy. Roman receives one book each month for five years with the goal of building him a library of 60 books.

Metoyer says his daughter, Amberlyn Metoyer, Roman’s mother, reads the books to Roman and to Metoyer’s handicapped son, Christopher, when they arrive each month. Both children look forward to the books arriving and get much pleasure from the interactive time with Amberlyn. “They’re really nice, hardback books,” Metoyer says.

Lynn Stevens, United Way of Northwest Louisiana CEO, (inset) spoke to the board about her agency’s effort to address early childhood literacy. See Story Page 3A. Photos by Carolyn Roy

The program goal is to inspire families to read more to their children and catalyze the community to invest more time, talent and treasures to prepare children to enter kindergarten ready to succeed, according to United Way. Metoyer was at the school board committee meeting Tuesday when another United Way of Northwest Louisiana program provided 500 backpacks for Natchitoches Parish Students. Lynn Stevens and Jennifer Martin, representing United Way, delivered the backpacks. Stevens, CEO of United Way of Northwest Louisiana, said the backpacks and supplies were collected by the South Central Region group of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.

The Natchitoches Parish School Board accepted 500 backpacks that will be distributed to students in grades K-12 through a program to serve a population struggling to afford basic needs and address early childhood literacy. From left are board members Tommy Melder and Rhonda Guidroz, Supt. Dale Skinner, board members Katrina Willis and Emile Metoyer, Director of Personnel Linda Page, board member Eugean Garner, United Way Vice President of Resource Development Jennifer Martin and board members Harry Graham, Russ Danzy, Mike Hilton and president Ralph Wilson.

Members as far as New Mexico donated supplies to K-12 students in Northwest Louisiana. Nearly a quarter of children in Natchitoches Parish enter kindergarten unprepared, Stevens said. Some 54 percent of the population from K-12 is struggling to afford basic needs according to a survey by Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed (ALICE). Stevens said it is a goal for Untied Way and Alpha Kappa Alpha to fight and reverse this statistic.

The Natchitoches Community Alliance Foundation Inc., and Natchitoches area Chamber of Commerce are United Way sponsors for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. To sign up, contact United Way at (318)688-2504.