Fall in love with reading – it will open new opportunities for success.

That was the message of middle grade novelist Donna Gephart, who spoke during our inaugural #KidsMatter Literacy Luncheon and Silent Auction on Nov. 30 at the Benvenuto Restaurant in Boynton Beach.

The author of Lily and DunkinDeath by Toilet Paper, How to Survive Middle School and other books told a crowd of more than 60 attendees that she grew up in a working-class neighborhood of Philadelphia and spent much of her free time in a library reading books on just about any topic.

“That place changed my life,” said Gephart, who went on to become a popular speaker at schools, conferences, and book festivals, and now lives in South Florida with her family.

The #KidsMatter luncheon was a fundraiser for a new program at Lake Worth West Resident Planning Group that will aim to change the lives of middle school students.

Proceeds from our event will be used to start afterschool and summer camp programs for middle school students, so they are better prepared for high school and beyond. The funds will also go to literacy programs for our children and youth.

At the luncheon, Chief Deputy Michael Gauger of Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and Houston Tate, director of Office of Community Revitalization for Palm Beach County, also discussed how Lake Worth West Resident Planning Group has made a major difference in the lives of hundreds of people during their times of need.

Over the years, the community just off Military Trial near Lake Worth Road was cleared of crime, drugs, and dilapidated houses and turned into a model neighborhood complete with a playground, ballfields and a community center, which offers programs for residents to become better parents and help their children succeed in school.

“This has become a model community,” Gauger said. “It wasn’t just the police and county that made the difference – it was the residents who stepped up and worked with us to improve their streets.”

Rhonda Rogers, Executive Director/BRIDGES Director at Lake Worth West Resident Planning Group, said the community will continue expanding programs because the residents are committed to their neighborhood, and organizations like the Sheriff’s Office, the county government, Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County, and many others are dedicated to funding programs and improvements.

“We have great support in the community,” Rogers said.

And now, there’s new support from friends of Lake Worth West Resident Planning Group through the #KidsMatter luncheon.

Rogers plans on the luncheon becoming an annual event to serve not just as a fundraiser for the organization but also bring attention to the importance of reading.

“Reading is key to everything,” she said.

Learn more about upcoming Lake Worth West Resident Planning Group events here.