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In 1965, in Florida, Mary Yardumian heard a speech by Frank Laubach, the well-known literacy educator. She was inspired to become a literacy volunteer and soon afterwards began teaching near her home.

In 1971, after moving to Pittsburgh, she found no volunteer literacy program in Allegheny County or in nearby counties. She began training volunteers in the region and helped at least twelve new programs get started.

In 1976 Mrs. Yardumian founded Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council with a group of volunteers from the Pittsburgh area. She ran the organization from her home.

By 1981 the demand for instruction was too great for Mrs. Yardumian and her volunteers to handle. A long-range planning committee recommended that the Council become a non-profit corporation and that it establish a Board of Directors, an office, and a professional staff.

In 1982 GPLC was incorporated and moved into an office in the East Liberty branch of the Carnegie Library. The first two staff members were hired in 1984, and the following year the first area site was established on the North Side of the city.

Since that time the organization has grown rapidly. The Council’s professional staff has grown to forty full-time employees. Neighborhood-based programming has continued to develop, and today there are twelve area offices in community centers, churches, and social agencies. GPLC’s services have greatly expanded and now include all of the programs listed under Our Programs.

In 2013-14 GPLC’s staff and volunteers provided services to 4,600 students in the Pittsburgh area. Six hundred volunteers participated in GPLC programs last year. 

In 2004 the Pittsburgh Board of Education closed its large adult literacy program at Connelley Technical Institute. The Board and the Pennsylvania Department of Education looked to GPLC to provide services for the 1,000 students who were displaced by the closing. As a result GPLC opened its Downtown Center in January 2005. The Center houses seven classrooms, a computer lab, tutoring areas, and offices. GPLC increased the number of full-time professional instructors on its staff. It is no longer an agency where one-to-one tutoring by volunteers was the primary method of delivering services. It delivers classes in a variety of formats and schedules to meet student needs.

From 2006 to 2012 GPLC was the host organization for a national project entitled Literacy*AmeriCorps. GPLC ran a program that operated in six cities around the country, providing full-time national service workers to dozens of literacy programs.  This project served about 10,000 students annually in the six cities.

In 2013 we took over management of OASIS Intergenerational Tutoring in Pittsburgh.  This is a program that serves at-risk children in grades K-3 who need help with literacy.  Senior volunteers do the tutoring, which takes place in over 25 local public schools.

Donald Block has served as executive director since 1984. He has a national reputation as a leader in the field of adult education and family literacy.

As of this writing, GPLC is involved in many projects to expand and improve its services. New projects have begun in the following areas: 1) ensuring that more students move on to college or vocational training after completing GPLC programs, 2) providing more hours of instruction to current students so they can make faster progress, 3) adding a vocational component to a GED course, 4) new family literacy programs to assist the immigrant families who are moving to Pittsburgh, and others. We look forward to meeting the growing need for adult education and family literacy services in the Pittsburgh region.

GPLC has been recognized with the following awards, among others:

  • Wishart Award for Excellence in Nonprofit Management – given by the Forbes Funds, a supporting organization of The Pittsburgh Foundation (2002).
  • Literacy Leadership Award given by the National Coalition for Literacy (2011).
  • Seal of Excellence from the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations for completion of the Standards for Excellence accreditation program (2007, renewed in 2015).
  • GPLC’s director was named the leading administrator of adult basic education in the nation – an award from the Commission on Adult Basic Education (2007).