Barbara Chapman has spent her lifetime focused on making sure others learn the critical life skills of reading and writing.
The journey started with her first job 47 years ago after graduating from Benedict College, a private historically black college in Columbia, South Carolina. Barbara became a case manager with the South Carolina Department of Corrections. The job not only focused her life, but also the lives of the thousands of inmates she worked with during her 25-year tenure.
Her job was to help inmates figure out what jobs they could do while in the Corrections system and afterwards based on their education and skills.
“As I walked up and down the aisles and I talked to the men, I learned that many of them could not read or write,” she said.
It didn’t take her long to realize the value of the Department of Corrections program that encouraged inmates to get a high-school diploma or even a college degree. Education gave the inmates a road to a better future.
“Education helped them deal with whatever was going on in their world, so they could make better decisions,” she said.
After Barbara retired, she became the Executive Director for Communities in Schools after-school program. There she worked with middle schoolers, providing programs for drug & alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy and homework assistance. There she saw the same issues that had troubled many of the individuals she worked with at the Department Corrections: That without basic literacy skills, individuals are severely impacted.
That job morphed into the Executive Director for the Newberry County Literacy Council.
The program first concentrated on adults – helping unemployed members of the community use a computer to apply for jobs. She continued to encounter the same problem: if you can’t read or write, you can’t use a computer. Without basic computer skills, it is hard to find a job.
In honor of Barbara being named a 2022 #TDThanksYou recipient for doing good in her community by creating opportunities for others, TD Bank is helping the Newberry Literacy Council update their technology. Barbara, who is known in her local community as Miss Barbara, intends to purchase laptops that will allow more children to participate in after-school tutoring.
Innovative fundraising is a key to success
Barbara also focused on becoming a master fundraiser over the years.
Newberry has about 30,000 residents “I have connections to every one of them," Barbara said.
The first year, she raised $4,000 and she was happy. The second year, she raised $10,000. And after that, she got better and better. At a family reunion, she met actor, Michael Carter, a distant relative. Not long after, he came to Newberry, visited the literacy center and every school. He also came to a fundraiser that was held at Central United Methodist church, raising $3,000.
She emphasizes to the skeptical that literacy isn’t just for sitting down and reading.
Today, the Literacy Council works with adults, children and families. One of its most successful programs is FAST, Families and Schools Together. FAST provides dinners, cooked by local organizations, so families can have dinner together. This service frees up time and energy so adults in the family can help children with homework after dinner is over.
Her oldest literacy council participant was 88. He came to her because he wanted to learn to read his favorite scriptures in the Bible. He succeeded in reading the Bible in church and when he was done, he looked at Barbara, and told her she did a great job.