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February 23, 2017: The Ionia County Literacy Council is pleased to announce that Janet Balice has joined the team as its new executive director to further the vision and mission of the council. Balice comes with a wealth of experience necessary to direct the literacy council, having spent 33 years in education and having been involved with community organizations and fundraisers for a number of years. 

“The literacy council is an amazing organization that provides a vital service to our community,” Balice stated. “I’m very much looking forward to working with board members and volunteer tutors who so generously donate their time and talents.”

“We couldn’t have found a better fit,” said Sue Kessler, Ionia County Literacy Council Board Chair and former director. “Janet is very involved with community organizations like RAVE and the Ionia County Community Foundation, so she’s knowledgeable about nonprofits. She’s helps organize fundraisers, like the annual Corks and Kegs event, and chairs the Governor’s Luncheon at the Ionia Free Fair each summer. Being involved in the community and fundraising are qualities we were looking for specifically. We feel so blessed that Janet has decided to join us.”

The literacy council provides free, one-to-one tutoring in reading, writing, math, and English as a second language to adult learners throughout Ionia County. Generally there is at least one volunteer tutor in every town within the county, although many tutors are willing to travel to a neighboring town. Volunteer tutors are trained by the literacy council.

The literacy council is located in the Michigan Works! building at 301 West Main Street in Ionia. Appointments are available by calling 616-389-8529 or by email at You can also visit our website at

If you or another adult you know struggles with reading, math, or speaking English, the literacy council urges you to call. You will be glad you did.

May, 2012: Marilyn Peckins, the newest member of the Ionia County Literacy Council Board of Directors, is a lifelong resident of Ionia County, and happily married with three grown children.

Before retiring in July, 2011, Marilyn had worked for thirty-three years as a secretary with the State of Michigan, most of that time at the Riverside Correctional Facility in Ionia, and more recently in the warden’s office at the Michigan Reformatory. Since her “release” in July, Marilyn now has time to enjoy other activities, such as gardening, reading and tutoring.

“The ability to read is so important and essential in today’s world. Since I have been blessed with the ability to read and the time and patience to help others, I want to help those who struggle to read,” Marilyn said.

“My volunteer tutor experience with the Ionia County Literacy Council since September, 2011 has been both rewarding and gratifying. I look forward to working with the other members of the Literacy Council Board and the community to continue our efforts in promoting and increasing literacy,” she stated.

Please join the Ionia County Literacy Council in welcoming Marilyn Peckins aboard. Marilyn will also be helping out in the office of the literacy council.

December 2011: The Ionia County Literacy Council welcomes Mary Brimmer to its board of directors.

Mary, a retired kindergarten and Young 5s teacher, taught at Belding Area Schools for over twenty years.

She was instrumental in helping to develop and has been involved in the Greenville Flat River Community Theater. In addition, Mary is a former member of Storybook Theater, a traveling children's theater group.

Mary enjoys walking, traveling, and reading.

She has two grown children and two beautiful grandchildren. Mary says she is honored to be a part of the Ionia County Literacy Council, and we are honored that she joined.

Saying good-bye . . .

Sister Kathleen (Kit) Kaiser, csj, came to Ionia in April 1996 and has worked these past 16 years for the Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids in pastoral ministry to the Spanish-speaking population in Ionia and Montcalm Counties.

Because of her concern for the literacy of her Hispanic community, she offered English classes at SS Peter & Paul School for three years to Spanish-speaking adults. It was during this time that she met Mary AnnHagemeyer,director of the Ionia County Literacy Council,and was askedtojoinforcesin establishing an ESL program (English as a Second Language) with the council.

Sister Kit joined the council as an adjunct member and in 2008 became a board member.During her 13 years with the council, she has been active in all areas of adult literacy promoted by the council, but most especially in recruiting teachers and students for the ESL program in both Ionia and Belding.

In early January, Sister Kit will be leaving the Ionia area to take a position near Kalamazoo. Shewill always consider Ionia one of her many ‘homes’ and the people of Ionia part of her dear ‘family’.

Sister Kit has been a dedicated member of the Ionia County Literacy Council Board of Directors and will be dearly missed by all.

. . . and hello

Karen Perkins, joined the Ionia County Literacy Council Board of Directors on October 13, 2011.

Karen brings 25 years of case management experience in employment-related services to the literacy council. She began that service with EightCap in 1986.

Currently Karen is Lead Case Manager at the Ionia County Michigan Works! office in Ionia, where she oversees the Workforce Investment Act Employment and Training Programs, as well as the Jobs Education and Training Programs.

Karen also has been involved in the community in a number of ways, including serving as an Ionia Chamber of Commerce Ambassador for 22 years. Most recently she served as chairwoman of the 2011 Ionia Free Fair Women’s Day event.

Karen’s work and volunteer experience will prove to be a valuable asset to the mission of the literacy council, and we feel honored to have her aboard.


Meet our newest tutors









Janet Baker of Muir, Carol Larsen-Roddy of Portland, Jan Nurenberg of Westphalia, Nanette Goupil of Greenville, Marilyn Peckins of Lyons, and Sandra Meitler of Portland proudly display their certificates of completion at the end of a 12-hour tutor training with the Ionia County Literacy Council. The training was held over four days from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Ionia Michigan Works office. The training began Tuesday, September 8 and ended Thursday, September 15.

Meet two of our newest board members

Marilyn Stock is one of our newest board members, joining in November 2010. She has worked for Portland Community and Adult Education for 28 years and has been its director for the last four. Portland Community and Adult Education offers opportunities for youth and adults to earn their high school diploma, offers enrichment courses to the community, hosts a summer school, and is a Lansing Community College Extension Center.

Marilyn is married, has three daughters, and “loves being a grandmother for the first time.” She enjoys working in the yard, even though, “it’s a game of cat and mouse, as I plant only to see if the dog will dig it up.”

Marilyn earned a Bachelors Degree in Business from Davenport University. She states that, “It’s been a great pleasure to work with our local adult students over the years, and I look forward to working with the Literacy Council and folks from Ionia County.”

Vicky Lewis Wagner is another recent addition to our board, joining in November 2010. Vicky has a Master’s Degree in Education with an endorsement as a Reading Specialist and is close to finishing a second Master’s Degree in the Art of Teaching with endorsements as an Early Childhood Specialist and a Learning Disabilities Specialist. She also has credits towards a Master’s in an Educational Psychology Degree.

Vicky has taught Early Childhood Education classes at Montcalm Community College for 11 years and also works in the Great Start Readiness Preschool Program  at Saranac Elementary School. Previously, Vicky was the Ionia County Representative for Kent Regional 4Cs.

Vicky is married to John Wagner and says, “although I only gave birth to two children, I raised seven. As they have grown up and married, I have now accumulated a whopping 14 children (no steps or in-laws here). We also have 13 grandchildren.”

“I would love the whole world to have the opportunity to experience the joy of reading,” she states. “That is my motivation for becoming involved with the Ionia County Literacy Council.” Her most earnest desire is to “make a positive difference in the world.”

The Ionia County Literacy Council hosts a tutor recognition dinner in May 2010

The Ionia County Literacy Council Board of Directors and executive director honored its tutors in May with a recognition dinner. Board members brought their favorite dishes to pass around for all to enjoy. English as a Second Language (ESL) instructor Pat Wymer brought some of her students to the festivities as well.

After dinner, Ionia County Literacy Council Board Chair Norrie Slater expressed her thanks to the dedication of the literacy council tutors. Executive Director Gayle Thompson presented certificates of recognition to tutors. Joan Boog received recognition as the literacy council’s newest tutor, while Charlott Perry was recognized as the tutor who had the most students at one time. The certificate for tutoring for the most years was awarded to Rita Perry posthumously. At 92 years of age, Mrs. Perry had lost her battle with a recent, debilitating illness only one week prior to the event. Mrs. Perry’s husband, Gerard, accepted the certificate on her behalf.

Former Lebanese ESL student and current board member Doha Orban addressed the group with remarks about her experience as a student and as a board member.

Without the work of our volunteer tutors, the Ionia County Literacy Council could not complete its mission.  Many,  many thanks to their dedication.

Linda Stewart becomes treasurer of the Ionia County Literacy Council Board of Directors

After joining the board of directors on February 4, 2010, Linda Stewart was elected as its treasurer in March, following the earlier resignation of Petra Laux.
Stewart brings a wealth of financial expertise with her to the council, having worked at FirstBank for twenty-one years. Currently she is assistant manager at the Ionia main office.
Stewart was born in Wyandotte and raised in Lansing, but has lived in Ionia for twenty-three years, stating, “I love the small town atmosphere [of Ionia] and its historical homes and buildings.”
Stewart is an avid reader and become aware of the literacy council through various resources throughout the community. Stewart joined the Ionia County Literacy Council because she feels that “It is important to reach out to individuals in our community who want and ask for help. Our possibilities are endless when we work hard enough to achieve what we want to accomplish.”
Stewart has been married for twenty-two years. She and her husband have six children between them (“his, mine and ours”). They also have two grandchildren, ages 6 and 18 months.
Stewart’s interests include gardening, reading, camping, and “my love of animals and spending time with my family.”
The Ionia County Literacy Council provides individual and small group tutoring in reading, math, and English as a second language (ESL) to those ages 16 and over. The Ionia County Literacy Council is always looking for motivated tutors. For more information on attending classes, receiving tutoring, or becoming a tutor, call the Ionia County Literacy Council at 616-527-1360, ext. 116. Learn how you can make a difference in someone’s life. 

Ionia County Literacy Council conducts tutor training

Ionia County Literacy Council Executive Director Gayle Thompson talks to five new tutors about tutoring adults at this 12-hour tutor training. The training took place over four days in February 2010. The tutor training focused on how adults learn, different learning styles, how to work with different learning styles, learning disabilities, English as a Second Language, teaching strategies, and more. Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer tutor should contact the Ionia County Literacy Council at 616-527-1360, ext. 116 for information on the next training.

Ionia County Literacy Council

301 West Main Street

Ionia, MI 48846