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Editorial: Another COVID blow, dictionary project ends

Sure, many small businesses – larger ones, too, for that matter – are suffering because of economic shutdowns brought on by the coronavirus.

But it’s not only businesses that are closing their doors. It’s not only businesses that face financial peril.

What about our civic clubs and organizations?

A letter from Mike Hendrix proves that these groups are suffering, as well. And when community and civic groups suffer, we all suffer.

Hendrix, a former educator, started The Dictionary Project in Davie County some 19 years ago. His goal was to buy a new dictionary for every third grader in county schools. That went so well, with support from businesses and civic groups, that soon a thesaurus was given to every sixth grader in the county. Spanish-English dictionaries were also provided.

Free to all students.

Well, that won’t happen this year. And the way things are going, not next year or the next, either.

The Enterprise Record was a proud supporter of this program every year. We enjoyed going into the middle school, hearing Hendrix tell the students how to use the thesaurus, handing them out, and then getting thank-you notes from the students. The program made everyone feel good.

But no more.

Over the years, the project raised $52,798, providing 23,955 books to students.

Hendrix listed three main reasons for ending the project, not to mention that some educators think in-hand books are too old school.

One, the cost of the books has skyrocketed. Last year’s order was $552 more than the year before. They’re even higher now.

Also, these clubs and businesses that annually supported the program just don’t have the expendable funds they once did. “One civic club became inactive,” Hendrix wrote. “Another civic club had to withdraw their support for the project because of financial problems. Several clubs had to cut down on their total gift because of lagging fundraising. A decrease in overall funding is the primary reason for having to stop the project.”

And there’s the pandemic. Visitors can no longer enter the schools to hand out the books, or explain how to use them. “The pandemic has  prevented some support groups from having meetings during the last year, and certainly the number of fundraiser events has decreased the amount of expendable money clubs have to support our cause.”

“I’m so very proud of what we have accomplished during the last 29 years,” Hendrix wrote. “I’m so aware that none of this would have been possible without the wonderful support of many clubs, businesses, and individuals who have contributed their share of funds over and over. Thank you for caring about the students of Davie County and for providing a dictionary and thesaurus for students to have. Most of our support groups and individuals have been faithful supporters for our entire 19-year existence. This is something we can all celebrate and take pride in. Thank you for being a part of this worthy project.”

Nice words, but the thanks should go to you, Mike Hendrix. Without your vision and hard work, none of it would have ever happened.

No, it’s not the end of the world. And yes, our students will continue to succeed.

Why?

Because the next Mike Hendrix is out there, waiting for a new idea to help our students be successful. Because these clubs that are failing will be replaced with other ways we can help each other. Maybe it will be a different club, or maybe just an idea that gains support.

COVID might have thrown a couple of kicks to the side of us, but it can’t keep a good community down.

– Mike Barnhardt