Study Club takes a down-home approach

For the second time, the annual Study Club fundraiser event will focus on reading.

The event will be held Saturday at the Community Apple Orchard and will raise money for the Emily Joy Averill Foundation’s Joy of Reading initiative.

The club supports a local charity every year, said Susan Ahlers Leman, event co-chair. The members voted to support the Joy of Reading for a second year.

“We think the Joy of Reading foundation is doing a really good job of making our home a better place,” Ahlers Leman said.

The event’s theme, “Down Home Giving,” is based on a country song, she said, and reflects the feeling of country and making the local community a better place to live.

Study Club events in years past have been quite varied in feel. It was once held in the Ringland-Smeltzer House, she said, and one year featured dueling pianos. This year there’s a more relaxed, country feel.

The dress is casual – jeans and boots.

“The apple orchard is so amazing, and fall is such a beautiful time of year,” Ahlers Leman said.

The party will be held at the covered patio in the orchard’s Back 40, with food provided by orchard co-owner Bev Baedke.

The Emily Joy Averill Foundation gives out scholarships and supports cheerleading organizations in honor of Emily Averill, who died in a car accident in 2011. Emily’s mother, Katie Averill, said the foundation began its literacy program last year.

“Emily was a helper in a second-grade classroom. So we chose to support second-graders with literacy and reading,” Averill said.

Last year, the group gave 375 books to second graders in all Fort Dodge schools, and it plans to do the same this year.

“What’s been one of the most rewarding things about the Joy of Reading and starting this foundation, is the way that my idea has spread,” she said. “For instance, at Cooper School, the second-graders did a fundraiser and raised money for books. Then they passed the books on to kindergarteners at Cooper.”

At St. Edmond schools, the second-graders passed on the Joy of Reading by putting books in with the food provided through Backpack Buddies, she added.

“This year, we have some lofty goals. The Study Club last year … raised $17,000 for the Joy of Reading,” Averill said. “I’ve been a member of Study Club for 12 years, and that’s the largest level of contribution we’ve been able to give probably since the inception of our club.”

This year she hopes to give each of Fort Dodge’s 14 second-grade classrooms a $500 literacy incentive budget.

“Nobody understands what motivates those second-graders better than those second-grade teachers,” she said.

She also wants to buy iPads for some of the largest classrooms, to be used as a literacy tool.

“It’s been a personal rewarding to me, to suffer such a great loss, and to be with those children, and be able to pass on my daughter’s memory, and the things that were important to her,” Averill said.

“Many times I’m walking through Target or a Casey’s store, and a second-grader will come up and hug me. They’re very warm and loving, and I think they really understood my message.”