Testimonial for Cathee Fisher
Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation recently lost one of its most committed and effective supporters. Cathee Fisher passed away unexpectedly at home on July 8th.
Cathee was a dedicated neighborhood activist; she was very active in INC for twenty or more years. She had been active in Northwest Denver and in the East Montclair Neighborhood where she had lived for the last several years.
In 1995, Cathee, along with INC Chair Stan McIntyre, organized a school grounds beautification project known as ‘Make a Difference Day.’ That effort was very successful and resulted in INC receiving a $2,000 award from the Newman Foundation. In 1996, a newspaper article about ‘The Dictionary Project’, which promoted dictionaries for all third graders nationwide, caught Cathee’s attention and, as she would say, “a little light came on in my head and told me this could be done in Denver.” She had a great love for reading and felt it important for all to be able to read well. Some of the award money was proposed as ‘seed money’ to start a dictionary program. The idea was accepted by the INC Executive Committee and the Dollar Dictionary Drive was created.
The first year proved to be a logistical nightmare; where would we get 5,000 books? Using her considerable skills and resourcefulness, she checked around and found an affordable book at Kmart. She and another very dedicated supporter, the late Nancy Jackson, went to all Kmart Stores in the metropolitan area and purchased all the books they could find. About this same time, Nancy was planning a trip to visit family in New York. While there, she purchased dozens of books at a local Kmart and packed them in her luggage for the return trip to Denver. She shipped her clothing home via separate courier. Eventually, enough books were acquired and after many more logistical challenges, the books were delivered to the DPS third-graders as a gift from INC and local neighborhood organizations.
The Dollar Dictionary Drive continued to provide books to all DPS third graders the following year as well. In 1996, a dictionary plus a thesaurus became the gift for the third-graders. We have been able to provide a two-book gift, a dictionary and a thesaurus, to the third graders nearly every year since. In 1997, INC was honored to be the recipient of the national ‘Neighborhoods of the USA’ award in recognition of our dictionary project. Cathee flew to Albany, NewYork to accept the award on behalf of INC. She came home with a plaque of distinction as well as a monetary award for the Dollar Dictionary Drive.
Cathee was a winner of the prestigious ‘Minoru Yasui’ award. The award honors men and women who make unique contributions to the community. The recipient receives a significant cash award to designate to a non-profit agency of their choice. Cathee proudly brought a cash award of $2,500 to the Dollar Dictionary Drive.
Hundreds and hundreds of thank-you letters have been received from the third-graders over the life of this project. Cathee took particular delight in reading the letters and bursting out in laughter when seeing the ‘misspelled words.’ The letters were often personalized with accompanying drawings relating to the books. The handwriting was unique, the content of the letters touching and heartwarming. Cathee loved this shared innocence from the many third graders.
Cathee was an avid reader herself and had a passion to share the importance of reading with all young people. When not working, she spent most of her waking hours reading. When stopping by to visit her, I would often find her, on a chilly day, all bundled up with her bunny slippers on, reading under a shade tree in the yard. On rainy days, she would be reading on the front porch. She loved the feel and atmosphere of the outdoors while being engrossed in a good book. Her sister reports that her home was laden with not just hundred of books but thousands.
The Dollar Dictionary Drive is now in its sixteenth year and has provided more than 230,000 books to over 107,000 DPS third graders. All of this because a ‘little light came on in her head.’ She did not hide her light under a bushel. I am proud to have been Co-Chair with Cathee on this project for the last twelve years. Partnering with her on the numerous challenges of this project over the years has enabled me to witness the great act of love and caring she shared with third graders and many others. She truly loved going to the classrooms and handing out the books to the students. Her love and sharing, as exemplified through the Dollar Dictionary Drive, will be sadly missed by INC and all who knew her. Her memory will live on in the thousands of students who have been touched by her initiative and those of us who vow to continue her work of learning and literacy even as we move into new ways of imparting information and knowledge.
Cathee’s family has requested that any donations in her memory be made to the Dollar Dictionary Drive; donations can be sent to Dollar Dictionary Drive, P.O. Box 18347, Denver, CO 80218.