Take first prize in Rim Country Literacy Program's first Book Raffle and you'll be the proud owner of the rare Zane Grey novel "Camp Robber."
It's part of a 75-volume collector's set of Zane Grey books valued at $1,000. "Camp Robber," which is often missing from the set, is worth $400 alone.
Second prize in the raffle is $500 cash; third prize an illustrated set of Mark Twain books; fourth prize a children's basket of books plus a beanbag chair and a hand-knit llama hair blanket; and fifth prize, a vintage Mark Twain collection.
The Rim Country Literacy Program is holding the raffle to raise money for its various programs.
"As with any nonprofit, we're in dire need of funds," teacher Amy von Somogyi said. "Times are tough and our students are exploding. We've grown hundreds of percent."
To illustrate her point, von Somogyi noted that she has gone from 10 or 15 students in her English as a Second Language class, to between 55 and 65 since she started volunteering about 18 months ago.
"For each of those students we need tutors and materials, and then we have overhead to worry about," she said.
Director Su Connell says that similar growth has been experienced in all aspects of the program.
"Last year, we had close to 4,500 volunteer hours," Connell said. "As of the end of August, we were at 4,300 volunteer hours this year with four full months to go."
Funding a program that is growing rapidly is a real challenge, they said.
"We're not just trying to maintain a program, we're trying to grow explosively and fund it in a town that already has so many good charities," von Somogyi said. "How do you choose?"
All the classes and services offered by Rim Country Literacy Program are free. They include:
- Adult basic education, an opportunity for adults to learn to read or improve their basic literacy skills.
- General Education Development (GED), which prepares students to pass a test for a high school equivalency diploma.
- English as a Second Language (ESL), which uses tutors and classes to help non-English speaking residents learn English.
- Citizenship Classes, which prepare students to test for United States citizenship.
- Family Literacy, which teaches adults to improve their reading skills so their children can also become better readers.
Rim Country Literacy Program also is looking for volunteers.
"No training is necessary," von Somogyi said. "All you need is a desire to help other people achieve their goals. We have all the materials, we provide the training, and we'll even come to the first couple classes until you get situated."
You don't even need to speak Spanish to be a tutor.
"But a lot of our volunteers come away being able to speak Spanish much better," Connell said. "Most of our teachers become very close to their students. You end up making lifetime friends."
Most of the students in the Rim Country Literacy Program are regular Payson residents, American citizens who for one reason or another never learned to read or didn't graduate from high school. The community reaps other benefits as well.
"There is nothing that helps the community more than this literacy program," Connell said. "You know what our voting record is. One of the reasons is that a lot of people can't read. Medical costs go up. Jail costs go up. It just goes on and on because people can't read."
Raffle tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the Payson Roundup, Tiffany Nails, Stockmen's Bank, Prudential Arrowhead Realty, Jackalope Books, Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce or by calling the Rim Country Literacy Center at 468-7257. The drawing will be held Dec. 15 and ticket holders need not be present to win.
"We're going to combine the drawing with our Family Literacy Program graduation," von Somogyi said. "We'll be performing a play called ‘Mrs. Wishy Washy.'"
The Rim Country Literacy Center is located at Manzanita Manor Apartments, 809 W. Longhorn Road. For more information, call (928) 468-7257.