The write stuff Author, wife award grants to end illiteracy

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ll best-selling authors want people to read their works, but not all of them create nonprofit foundations to solve the illiteracy problem in the nation.

Before David Baldacci made writing his full-time job in 1995, he was busy working as a D.C.-area attorney and spending time with his wife, Michelle, and their two children.

Since turning to writing, Mr. Baldacci, of Vienna, has written more than 15 best-selling novels and short stories, turning a private hobby into a public passion.

Yet, he says, something in his life wasn’t quite right.

“My wife and I over the years have given to a lot of different charities,” Mr. Baldacci says, citing his sister’s multiple sclerosis as a primary inspiration for their giving. “But it was never really focused giving because we sort of gave here, there and everywhere.”

So they focused their donations by creating their own charity foundation.

In 2002, Mr. Baldacci and his wife formed the Wish You Well Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to solving illiteracy in America by promoting family literacy and the expansion of reading-based educational programs. Family literacy is the idea that the home is a child’s first school and that parents are the child’s first teachers.

The Baldaccis borrowed the name of the organization from the title of Mr. Baldacci’s 2000 novel, “Wish You Well.”

Since then, running his own charity has become like a second job for Mr. Baldacci, who serves as chairman of the board for Wish You Well.

“We meet quarterly to look at and review grant applications,” he says. “The board discusses each application, after we’ve gone over every application individually, and decides whether to fund them or not.”

Through the Wish You Well Foundation, the Baldaccis have helped fund a variety of organizations that promote reading such as the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, a nonprofit whose goal is to establish literacy as a value in every family in America; the Cool Cats Book Club at West Ridge Elementary School in Racine, Wis., a book club for third-graders in which books are read and discussed during the school year; and others.

Wish You Well has also been working with America’s Second Harvest, a food bank based in Chicago, to start a new program called Feeding Body and Mind. The goal of this new program is to get people to donate books at their local bookstore, which would then be sent to the local food banks and handed out when people come in to get their food.

“We collected more than 150,000 books on my book tour alone,” Mr. Baldacci says. “We’re going to start collecting tens of thousands of books for this project.”

Wish You Well also helps fund public school systems that cannot afford to buy books for their students. The typical grant ranges from $200 to $10,000, depending on the organization’s needs.

In 2006, Wish You Well gave a $5,000 grant to the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia, which is headquartered in Falls Church. The Literacy Council hosts four programs that work with adults and children.

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