TEXARKANA, Texas — Literacy Council of Bowie and Miller Counties officially opened its Summerhill Square offices Wednesday afternoon.

The agency began the move in December, and used Wednesday’s opening to herald new programs.

“It was all about space,” said Jenny Walker, executive director. “We’ve been in several locations since our beginnings 35 years ago in Texarkana’s public library. When COVID hit, that forced us into a place that was just 800 square feet. That quickly proved too small. So as soon as we could, we moved into larger space, which finally brought us here, going from 800 to 1800 square feet.”

Walker said the smaller space only allowed the council to host about 12 people at a time.

“Now, we have enough room to conduct our programs.”

Literacy Council does train students in reading and literacy, but Walker said the agency does much more.

“We are here to help out our students with the skills to make it in the modern workplace, and that goes beyond just reading, as important as that is,” she said. “Our definition of literacy is broad.”

That definition inclues computer literacy (basic computer operations and internet navigation) and financial literacy (personal money management and budgeting).

“In addition, we work with the Chamber of Commerce of Texarkana on their Work Keys study program. The locals schools host the programs, with the chamber providing resources. The schools provide the tests, but we can help students prepare for them,” Walker said.

The new space houses larger class and study space, a small library and computer lab and administrative offices.

“Students come in and are scheduled with one of our tutors for one-on-one instruction,” Walker said. “With our increased capacity, we can bring on more tutors and instruct more students.”

For those who seek the services of the Literacy Council, all they have to do is come by their offices.

“We will match you with a tutor,” Walker said. “If you want to volunteer as a tutor, come by and see us. We will evaluate you for interests and talents and find a good space to plug you in.”

In addition to their tutoring services, Literacy Council has an initiative about to premiere.

“We are launching our 100 Families program Tuesday (March 29) at 2 p.m.,” said Kristin Rivas-Jones, 100 Families county coordinator. “This is a communitywide initiative, where we help coordinate the various resources and efforts of services intended to help families in crisis. This program will help families in trouble to go from crisis to careers.”

Rivas-Jones said the program was brought on by Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

“It may have originated in Arkansas, but it applies to both Bowie and Miller (counties),” she said. “The program is already under way in four other Arkansas counties, we are the fifth. Bowie County is the first Texas county in which it applies.”

Another event on the agency’s calendar is the spelling bee.

“It takes place April 2 at Texarkana College,” Walker said. “The trophy for the spelling bee champions has been renamed in honor of Aaron Brand, who was a big supporter of the bee.”

Walker said the council took in $1,500 in its recent fundraiser with Julie’s Deli.

“We loved doing it with them, and we hope we get to do it again,” Walker said.