The story of WITS is built around a love of reading, learning, and community. In 1991 two women, Marion Stone, a retired Social Worker, and her friend Joanne Alter, retired Metropolitan Water Commissioner and neighbor, recognized the need to improve opportunities for children in Chicago.
Marion and Joanne combined their talents and met with the principal of Byrd Academy, where classrooms were often composed of 36 children and one teacher. They gained permission to tutor in one classroom and organize and update the school library. The school was willing to collaborate with them as long as they both promised they would be there consistently so that students were not disappointed. Their enthusiasm and dedication was soon applauded and recognized by staff.
There was no challenge too big and no task too small for Marion and Joanne. They scrubbed, dusted, and organized the library. They developed reading corners and created a space for students that was welcoming, full of fun and knowledge, and seemed magical. With posters up in the classrooms and books organized and beautifully displayed, Marion found a home in the library and Joanne found a space in the classroom. Having Marion and Joanne as dedicated guests willing to share their time, energy, and love of reading with the students at Byrd gave the teachers more time to concentrate on their curriculum.
Marion and Joanne’s dream became a wonderful reality as they gathered friends and associates to join them. They coordinated buses to transport volunteers to schools and WITS was born. Their story of dedication is truly a reminder that yes, one or two people can make a difference in the world. One or two people can start a movement.
It has been an honor and privilege to be a part of this wonderful organization and to have known these strong leaders as friends. We are honored to carry along with you the legacy of Marion and Joanne, and are especially aware of this as we remember Marion.