Mission Statement

The goal of this program is to assist all students in becoming good writers, active readers, creative thinkers, and resourceful learners by providing them with their own personal dictionary. The dictionaries are a gift to each student to use at school and at home for years to come. Educators see third grade as the dividing line between learning to read and reading to learn, so we encourage our sponsors to give dictionaries each year to children in the third grade.

Vision

With the support of local sponsors and volunteers, we want to provide a dictionary to every student in the United States. In this way we hope to help them to improve their communication skills and make the most of their education. Many of our sponsors are also taking the Dictionary Project beyond the United States, to help improve literacy worldwide.

The Dictionary Project is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization.

According to the United States’ Internal Revenue Service, an organization is tax-exempt if it is organized and operated exclusively for charitable purposes and none of its earnings go to a private individual. In addition, a tax-exempt organization under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code may not attempt to influence legislation or participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.

History

The idea for The Dictionary Project began in 1992 when Annie Plummer of Savannah, Georgia, gave 50 dictionaries to children who attended a school close to her home. Each year she continued to give this gift, raising money to help give more and more books so that in her lifetime she raised enough money to buy 17,000 dictionaries for children in Savannah. Early on, her project attracted the attention of Bonnie Beeferman of Hilton Head, S.C., who began a project of raising money by selling crafts to buy dictionaries for the schoolchildren of Hilton Head and the surrounding communities. By 1995, Bonnie was getting so many requests from local teachers to be included in the project that she wrote a letter to the editor of the Charleston Post and Courier explaining the project and asking for someone to help meet requests from the Charleston area. Mary French, who was already an active school volunteer even though her two children were still of preschool age, read the letter and decided this was a project for her. Starting with a few schools in Charleston and Summerville, she realized quickly that providing dictionaries to all the students in Charleston was going to require serious fundraising. She and her late husband Arno French formed a 501(c)(3) nonprofit Association in 1995, along with a Board of Directors. Arno served as president, Mary became the director of the Association, and The Dictionary Project was born.

Since its implementation in 1995, over 31 million children have received dictionaries because thousands of people saw the same need in communities all over the United States.

The original goal set by the board was to provide dictionaries to all third-grade students in South Carolina every year. This goal was achieved in 1999. After The Wall Street Journal published a story about the project in March 2002, the Dictionary Project took on a national purpose and expanded its mission to include students in the 50 United States. The program is typically implemented in the third grade each year, since this is the age at which dictionary skills are usually taught. Educators describe third grade as the time when a student transitions from learning to read to reading to learn.

The program has been adopted and refined by individuals, businesses, and civic organizations all over the country. Groups such as Rotary Clubs, Kiwanis Clubs, Elks Lodges, Granges, Lions Clubs, The Republican Federation of Women, Pioneer volunteers, parent organizations, and many more, have implemented The Dictionary Project where they live. Anyone can participate in this project by sponsoring a program to provide dictionaries to children in their community. The dictionaries are a gift for the children to keep. Our sponsors give dictionaries and other reference books to children in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, 9 Canadian provinces, and more than 15 other countries around the world.

Students can use the dictionaries throughout their school careers. Each year we offer a new edition of our dictionary that has been improved by sharing suggestions from teachers, students, and parents with the publisher. These and other ideas we receive from sponsors, students, and teachers are an integral part of this project because they give our Board of Directors direction. Through the Dictionary Project, sponsors can also choose to provide thesauruses, atlases, Spanish/English dictionaries, French/English dictionaries, or vocabulary builders to students in their local schools. The Dictionary Project is funded through donations and sponsors who introduce the program in their local schools. We are a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization, registered as a charity in all 50 states. A copy of our tax return and state registration are available upon request.

The Dictionary Project Team

Mary French
Director

Mary has a bachelor’s degree in English with a political science minor from Charleston Southern University. She has been the Director of the Dictionary Project since 1995. She has written and published The Dictionary of Wisdom, The Best Dictionary for Students, A Student’s Dictionary, A Student’s Dictionary, Canadian Edition, A Student’s Dictionary & Gazetteer, Canadian Edition, and with the help of Karan and Siddarth Rai, A Student’s Dictionary & Animal Gazetteer. Mary enjoys reading, walking, and traveling. Her favorite thing about her job is listening to people talk about their experiences implementing the Dictionary Project.

Elizabeth Huey
Director of Operations

Elizabeth graduated from Clemson University with a bachelor of science degree in accounting. She worked in public accounting as a CPA for 23 years. She is The Dictionary Project’s Director of Operations. She enjoys reading, travel, gardening, and boating. “I really enjoy getting to talk with sponsors across the U.S., and I love visiting classrooms to distribute dictionaries to students.”

Board of Directors

The Dictionary Project’s Board of Directors oversees the fulfillment of The Dictionary Project’s mission and vision.

All members of the Board of Directors are independent, voting members.

Douglas Boggie
President

2015 – Current

Douglas C. Boggie is the President of The Dictionary Project’s board of directors and has been a board member since 2015. He is a Financial Advisor and lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. Doug says the word that best describes him is motivated and had the following to say about the Dictionary Project. “As a member of Kiwanis in the Raleigh area we have found The Dictionary Project to be one of the most fulfilling programs for the Kiwanis clubs in our area. The tremendous reception from the students and teachers to the program as well as the personal gratification from the members handing out the dictionaries continue to make it a truly heartwarming experience for all.”

Dennis Brovarone
Vice President

2019 – Current

Dennis Brovarone joined The Dictionary Project’s Board of Directors in 2019 and currently serves as its Vice President. He is an attorney and lives in Littleton, Colorado. He chairs the Littleton Rotary Literacy Committee and has been distributing dictionaries for over five years. Dennis says the word that best describes him is persistent. According to Dennis, “A dictionary is the gateway to not merely literacy but also science and the arts. Dictionaries are an educational necessity as that gateway tool and superior to reliance on websites and e-readers in many ways. Dictionaries become tactile treasures and a foundation of life long learning. Our literacy program in support of a Littleton Public School is over twenty years old. Once a week for an hour or two, our volunteers have students read a book of their choice, one on one to a volunteer who help with pronunciation, meaning and just having an adult pay attention to them. These volunteer hours are usually the best part of the week and Dictionary Distribution Day is a high point of the school year for the students and the volunteers. I have had parents tell me they still have their dictionaries decades after finishing school while electronic devices become obsolete in a few years. The third and fourth graders are thrilled when our Rotary Club distributes the dictionaries and their teachers are grateful for the support.”

Barbara Moushon
Treasurer

2017 – Current

Barbara Moushon became a board member in 2017 and is the Treasurer of the board of directors. She served as the Director of Certified Literate Community Program and Literacy Alliance for Columbus Technical College, has been a member of the Columbus Rotary Club since 2014 and lives in Fortson, Georgia. She has been participating in The Dictionary Project since 2005. Compassionate is the word that Barbara’s husband says best describes her. Barbara told us that the children are the ones most impacted by The Dictionary Project. “We give dictionaries to approximately 2200 third grade students in Muscogee County each year. We recently completed a survey that was sent to all of the district third-grade teachers. They overwhelmingly appreciate the program and want to see it continue. In our program, we not only share with the children how easy it is to use, but that it can also be fun. We tell them that it is a very special tool and that we have met high school students who still use their dictionaries. The teachers tell us of students taking the books out at recess and looking through them with friends. Many teachers have weekly assignments requiring the use of a dictionary. We use ‘A Students Dictionary’ which includes a wonderful reference section. The children really enjoy thumbing through that. Our message also focuses a great deal on their graduation year and one day finding a “job that matches your heart”. Children need to hear that they have options and that adults believe in them. Almost every time I meet a child in public, I ask them where they went to the third grade and if they remember getting their dictionary. Most of them do, even high school students. We can make a difference if we just put a little effort into connecting with students and letting them see their own value while giving them a very important tool.”

Gary Pollmiller
Secretary

2018 – Current

Gary Pollmiller was elected to the board of directors in 2018 and currently serves as its Secretary. He lives in Parsons, Kansas and is a retired commercial fine art and product photographer. He has participated in The Dictionary Project since 2001 and says the word that best describes himself is Practical. Gary had the following comments to make about the importance of having a paperback dictionary. “A paperback dictionary is a practical, non-electronic method of improving the literacy of children and adults. I am not convinced that all students have access to a device or internet access in their home. These modern paperback dictionaries are practical when a student is given an assignment to learn about a new subject, and then can look up the words describing that subject which may seem outside of their present grade level.”

Karen Robinson

2019 – Current

Karen Robinson joined The Dictionary Project’s board of directors in 2019. She is a semi-retired software and database consultant who lives in the Kawartha area of Ontario, Canada. She began participating in The Dictionary Project through her Lions Club in 2018 and says the word that best describes her is Lion. She believes that a dictionary is a necessity and expressed it as follows. “The use of correct words is slowly disappearing from our world due to the use of acronyms and slang. Children are continually exposed to both of these. The saying ….you don’t know what you don’t know….has never been more prevalent. A child might “google” a word they know, but hand them a hard book and they can see all the words, not just the one they are looking for. If a child reads and learns one new word a day, the increase in vocabulary will be astounding over time The gift of a dictionary not only impacts the child, but the whole family will be impacted. “A child never keeps new discoveries to themselves. They normally want to show off and this will inspire parents to celebrate new words; perhaps even start playing more word games using the dictionary, with their child.”

Terry L. LaCombe-Stephens

2019 – Current

Terry L. LaCombe-Stephens became a board member in 2019. She is a real estate agent and lives in Hudson, Maine. She has been actively participating in The Dictionary Project since 2016 and learned about the project through the Maine State Grange “Words for Thirds” dictionary project. Diversified is the word Terry says best describes her. When asked why she thinks a dictionary is a necessity, she replied, “A dictionary is important for all ages as it teaches us how to communicate. Communication is the key to life. Having a dictionary enables one to communicate effectively with words and words give us the ability to communicate effectively.”

David R. Carr

2019 – Current

David R. Carr became a Dictionary Project board member in 2019. He retired from International Paper in Ticonderoga in 1999 and lives in Crown Point, New York. He has been participating in The Dictionary Project since 2003, when he first learned about the project serving as President of the Ticonderoga Kiwanis Club. He introduced the project to NY State Elks in 2003 and received national support of the program during the 2004 Grand Lodge National Convention. Patriotism is the single word that David says best describes him. When asked ‘What do you say to teachers who tell clubs that they don’t want dictionaries given to their students because they use computers?’ David had the following response. “Any time I have heard from teachers that they didn’t want dictionaries used in their classrooms because the students all use computers, I have responded that there are numerous students nationwide who look forward to school as they get something to eat there. Many have difficulty getting anything to eat at home because of the poverty situation. These students don’t have computers and would never get a dictionary of their own if it was not provided for them. He added, I also highly recommend to all organizations distributing dictionaries to make sure to distribute any and all extra dictionaries to libraries in hospitals, nursing homes and Veterans Homes and Hospitals as these are appreciated by the residents there.”

Sandy Budin

2018 – Apr 2020

Sandy Budin served as an independent, voting member of The Dictionary Project’s board of directors from November 2018 through April 20, 2020.