HARRISONBURG — A year ago, Skyline Literacy was on the verge of closing due to funding sources drying up. Today, the organization is still open and just received a $250,000 grant to ensure that 250 local residents achieve citizenship.
Skyline Literacy was awarded a Citizenship and Assimilation Grant from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Of the over 60 organizations nationwide that applied for the grant, Skyline was one of only 29 organizations out of the 41 awarded to receive full funding and the only recipient in Virginia, according to a press release.
During the next 24 months, Skyline will prepare over 250 local lawful permanent residents to pass the U.S. citizenship test and interview in their journey to naturalization, the release also stated.
Skyline’s grant partner, Church World Service Harrisonburg, will manage the application process.
Skyline Literacy helps over 150 residents of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County each year to learn to read, write and speak English.
After a rocky future last year, Skyline Literacy President Bill Fisher said this is a great opportunity for the organization, one that will necessitate an expansion of at least one employee.
Fisher said the nonprofit found out it received the grant on Oct. 1 and got started on the program right away. Classes meet weekly and informational meetings about the program will be held in Harrisonburg and Edinburg.
Until 2016, Skyline Literacy had received $200,000 from the Department of Homeland Security annually After it was cut, the organization used smaller grants to stay in operation that were short-lived and are no longer available, said Andy Kohen, treasurer of the organization.
In response, Skyline Literacy cut costs drastically. Staff has been reduced from five to two, and the organization cut its physical footprint to save on rent. Its 1,000-square-foot space on North Mason Street in downtown was reduced to a couple of hundred feet, said Kohen and Fisher.
The cuts had the board of directors wondering whether they were fulfilling the organization's mission, despite the need for services in the community. They met a number of times to discuss whether Skyline Literacy should close, but raised enough money to stay open through June 30.
Now, with the grant, Skyline Literacy will be able to continue helping residents on their journey to citizenship, Fisher said.