‘Philanthropic, Compassionate Soul’
Leaves Legacy of Literacy

New Jersey native Anne Feeley had many passions, including helping fund a cure for the brain cancer that took her life at age 58 last October. But her passion for literacy is her greatest legacy.

It took root years ago when Anne volunteered first in prisons and then in schools. But one particular day changed her life – and possibly the lives of thousands of Newark, N.J., children as well.

Anne shared her account of that defining moment on the website for My Very Own Library, the literacy organization that she founded: “I became a volunteer reading coach for a local school. My first year, I read with a boy who didn't have books at home, and he wasn't interested. But by the year’s end, he was reading at home. The next September when I arrived at school, he was sitting in a circle of boys during lunch break; they were all reading. When he saw me he waved his book and said, ‘Miss, I love reading!’ My Very Own Library was born.” (Read more about My Very Own Library here.)

Anne donated a significant financial contribution in partnership with the Foundation for Newark's Future to establish the My Very Own Library initiative. My Very Own Library is managed by New Jersey After 3, a statewide public-private partnership dedicated to expanding and improving after-school opportunities for children. Mark Valli, president and chief executive officer of New Jersey After 3, shares, "When you talk about Anne Feeley, the first thing you have to think about is her heart. She was a philanthropic, compassionate soul."

My Very Own Library dedicated the 2012-2013 school year to Anne, saying in the dedication, “Anne's mission was to give kids the powerful gift of new books along with the support to help them flourish into strong readers. Anne will forever be in our hearts and memories, and her wishes will be carried out, with her family's support, in all of the ongoing efforts to make My Very Own Library the success she envisioned it to be.”

Anne – who took note of the necessity of reading in day-to-day life – believed reading skills enhanced children’s lives. “Children who own books have better lives. The more books the better. It's that simple,” she wrote.

This school year, 120,000 books – 10 books for each of 12,000 Newark students – have been distributed at Book Fairs in Anne’s honor. But the late philanthropist isn’t a faceless benefactor to the students who have benefited from her generosity. Three students from Abington Avenue School have memorialized her with a mosaic.

One of the mosaic artists, Abington eighth-grader Jennifer Lopez, found inspiration in Anne’s example. “I saw in Anne Feeley the same drive and determination that we need as students at Abington to achieve our dreams. Her dream was to get good books into the hands of Newark’s children so that all will learn to love reading. My dream is to make an impact on the world by becoming a forensic scientist and making positive changes through my career. Like Anne, I want to be a role model who inspires others.”

The home library program, which just completed its second year, continues to field donations in Anne’s memory as its organizers look to reach all 45,000 Newark students. “We would love to see this be available to every child in Newark,” Mark says. “We would be building a city of literacy where reading is a part of the city’s culture. It just becomes something that defines the city, something that wouldn’t have been possible without Anne’s vision.”

Editor’s note: To donate to My Very Own Library in Anne Feeley’s memory, click here.
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