One Page at a Time

As executive director of Literacy Action of Arkansas, Sara Drew works to advance the nonprofit's mission of empowering adults through literacy

By KD Reep

When she has time to herself, you'll find Sara Drew in the middle of a great book. Photo by Matthew Martin

When she has time to herself, you'll find Sara Drew in the middle of a great book. Photo by Matthew Martin

Literacy Action of Central Arkansas started in 1986 as a way to provide one-on-one tutoring for adults whose needs were not being served by traditional classroom adult education programs in the area. The organization utilizes volunteers to teach reading skills to adults, and since 1999,
works with non-native adults to learn English and use their new skills to participate more fully in community life. Savvy talked to executive director Sara Drew about life with husband William, their 4-year-old son Liam and their rescue dog Cleo, her work and the importance of giving back.

SAVVY: WHAT IS YOUR DAY-TO-DAY LIKE?
SARA DREW:
Crazy! Rise and shine with hubby and son. Feed son, dress son and take son to preschool. Go back home and get ready for work and then we’re off to the races—my workdays are very busy.

HOW DO YOU BALANCE WORK, FAMILY AND INTERESTS? I haven’t found a balance. I just try to make my husband and son my first priority every day. Rarely do I do anything just for myself, except read, but I look forward to being able to make myself first again someday.

WHEN DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN THE COMMUNITY AS A PHILANTHROPIST? WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO GET INVOLVED? I’ve been in the nonprofit field since 2006! I’m a philanthropist with my time because that’s where I choose to work—in the nonprofit field. But I know that
I am very lucky to have a choice. I wanted to make a difference through my career, not just every once in a while with my money or time.

WHAT NONPROFITS ARE YOU INVOLVED WITH, AND HOW DO YOU GIVE BACK TO THEM? I worked for Heifer International for six years and support their work through raising awareness about my past position there. My family also supports The Humane Society of Pulaski County, CARE for Animals, KUAR/KLRE, Museum of Discovery, Arkansas Art Center, Our House, Little Rock Zoo, Nature Conservancy, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Audubon, AETN/PBS and First United Methodist Church. We generally donate our tithe twice a month to a few organizations throughout the year and I have served on several boards for nonprofits.
Of course, I work for Literacy Action of Central Arkansas and support my council as well as the Arkansas Literacy Councils.

HOW DOES YOUR WORK INFLUENCE YOUR PHILANTHROPIC ENDEAVORS?
My work in the nonprofit sector constantly opens my eyes to the world around me in new and insightful ways. I have a strong sense of justice and respect for human and animal kind, and empathy on a whole new level because my mission through my chosen career has been to give back.

WHAT IS THE MOST REWARDING ASPECT OF GIVING BACK TO YOUR COMMUNITY?
Changing people’s lives.

DOES YOUR FAMILY ALSO PARTICIPATE WITH YOU IN GIVING
BACK? IF SO, HOW ARE THEY INVOLVED?
Yes, they do. My son is still a little young, but my husband has always helped out with all of my organizations’ functions.

WHAT DO YOU HOPE YOUR SON LIAM LEARNS FROM YOU ABOUT
GIVING BACK TO THE COMMUNITY?
I hope my son learns to see outside himself, experience the joy of serving and connecting with other human beings, improving others’ lives and thinking of others before himself at times and that the United States is not the world. We are just a tiny part of a giant world of many different environments and people that see and experience life much differently.

WHAT WOULD YOU TELL SOMEONE WHO IS THINKING ABOUT GETTING INVOLVED WITH A NONPROFIT, AS A VOLUNTEER OR IN ANOTHER CAPACITY? It’s very different on a small-scale level, but can be very similar to a for-profit on a large scale as well. You need to be passionate about your career no matter what sector it falls under.

WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU WANT THE READER TO LEAVE WITH AFTER HAVING READ THIS FEATURE? Consider learning more about the nonprofits in your community, specifically Literacy Action of Central Arkansas. And by that I mean the smaller nonprofits that go unnoticed but are doing so much good right here in Little Rock. One of the most important facts about adult literacy is that the number-one factor in childhood literacy is whether a
parent can read to their child. If a child is never read to by their parents or do not see their parents reading, it doesn’t matter how much we preach about the third grade reading level. Reading starts in the home.

Visit literacylittlerock.org to learn more about Literacy Action of Central Arkansas. In addition to tutors, volunteers are needed for a wide variety of activities, from special events and office support to community education services and grant writing.