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Why I Give: Ralph Ryan

Do you have to be a millionaire to make a difference? Absolutely not. In fact, you can be retired and living in Parma, Ohio.

That’s where Ralph Ryan is when he writes a donation to Seeds of Literacy every month.

Ralph has been involved with Seeds for the better part of a decade. He started out as a tutor, volunteering once a week to help adult students with reading and math skills.

Over his years a as a tutor, Ralph learned about the variety of people coming to Seeds of Literacy for help, and where they were coming from. “It was just usually personal circumstances in their lives, where they just couldn’t continue with high school,” he comments.

And Ralph understands first-hand that circumstances don’t define a person.

As a tutor, he says, “I’d always tell the students that I went through a period, when I got back from the service, where I was on the street. I had no money and I was too embarrassed to go back home.”

It was a brief phase of Ralph’s life, but it taught him about having lows and reaching out for help.

“What I admired,” he says of the students, “was that they were there wanting to get off the rolls and return themselves to education and upward mobility. I thought that was great, and I could help with that and encourage people.”

Still, though he could relate to and admire them, he knew he wasn’t exactly the same as the students. “I’ve been very lucky, and I use the term ‘lucky.’ I have all kinds of options, which a lot of people don’t, and I understood that.”

So when his health took a turn and he could no longer come in to volunteer, Ralph started making monthly donations.

“It makes me feel good that I can still do something, however little it is,” he explains.

It’s true that the dollar amount of his monthly donations may be modest, but the impact is huge. Over the course of four years, Ralph’s donations have added up to several student “scholarships,” the cost of providing the Seeds of Literacy program to a student for a year.

In this way, his monthly donations mirror the persistence of the students who come to class every day: the progress can seem small, but it all amounts to a big difference.


You can join Ralph today in support of adult literacy by starting a monthly giving plan with Seeds of Literacy.