Rev. Tom Roberts gets posthumous literacy volunteer award
The Rowan County Literacy Council recently bestowed its Catherine Bernhardt Safrit award posthumously to the Rev. Tom Roberts.
Roberts, a former minister at First Baptist Church, died in August at the age of 75. He had donated more than 1,800 hours to the Literacy Council and tutored more than 30 students.
The award is named for Literacy Council founder Catherine Safrit and was established in 1995 to recognize people who have provided outstanding volunteer service to the organization. It was given this year at the council’s annual dinner, held at Carillon Assisted Living.
Council Vice President Melody Moxley said of Roberts that he “did not retire when he ended his career of serving churches as a Baptist minister.
“He continued to help others, whether as a volunteer chaplain at local hospitals, as a minister always ready to perform a funeral service for someone who did not have a minister, a friend who loved to bake pies for those who were homebound, or as a volunteer tutor,” she said. “If Tom were with us, we would not be able to present this award to him. He always refused recognition.”
Safrit decided to start the local literacy program in 1976 after retiring from her job as a junior high school teacher. At the time, there were only 26 literacy councils in North Carolina and nearly one million adults with little or no reading skills.
The Rowan program began with a group of 20 volunteers at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. It has since moved to the Rowan Public Library and in 2007 its volunteers provided 6,191 hours of service. The council now provides English as a second language instruction as well as literacy tutoring.