$691K to fund literacy programs

Literacy is a key indicator of a child’s success later in life, but more than half of Sonoma County third graders are falling behind – only 46 percent read at or above proficiency. That number is even lower in Sonoma Valley, where just 43 percent of third graders are reading at their grade level.

To combat these startling statistics, Sonoma’s Harvest Wine Auction is working to ensure 90 percent of Sonoma County’s third-grade students are proficient in reading on the state’s STAR test by 2018.

“The vintners and growers of Sonoma County are really committed to building this momentum,” said Honore Comfort, executive director of the Sonoma County Vintners, which produces the Harvest Wine Auction with the Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance.

New this year, the auction’s “Fund the Future” lot raised money for three charities with a proven track record at improving literacy rates – the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation, the United Way of the Wine Country’s Schools of Hope and Pasitos (Little Steps). The lot allows bidders to donate any amount to support the cause, which created an explosion of paddles on Sunday as bids shot up to $691,250, including three separate donations of $75,000 each, shattering all previous records. That single lot accounted for about half of the auction’s total $1.4 million take, and that’s just the beginning.

“We’re making a multi-year commitment to this effort,” said Maureen Cottingham, co-producer of the auction, explaining that this campaign will continue for the next three years at the Harvest Wine Auction. “We decided we needed to take a stand and focus on one area where we could make a big difference.”

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