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Obamas Have Donated $47,000 to Chicago-Based Literacy Group Since 2005

By Tanveer Ali | April 14, 2015 5:47am
 Barack and Michelle Obama read books to a group of kids at the White House on Easter 2011.
Barack and Michelle Obama read books to a group of kids at the White House on Easter 2011.
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Getty Images/Pool Photo

THE LOOP — Despite their hectic schedules around the world, Barack and Michelle Obama continue to support a Chicago-based organization aimed at developing literacy skills for children.

Among the 33 organizations the Obamas donated to last year is Boundless Readers, based on the First Couple's tax returns released last week.

It's not the first time the Obamas gave to the organization, which was started in 1988 in honor of Rochelle Lee, a librarian at Lincoln Park's Oscar Mayer Elementary School who focused on building a love of reading in children.

Since 2005, the Obamas have donated $47,000 to the organization that until last year was based in Andersonville before merging its mentorship and teacher development program with another education nonprofit, WITS Chicago. The donations to Boundless Readers is a fraction of the $1.57 million they've donated to various organizations during that period, but is significant, said Brenda Palm, executive director of WITS Chicago.

"Given all the other worthy causes that they could be giving their personal money to, it's really humbling," Palm said. "The donations that come from the Obamas is something close to their heart."

Tanveer Ali details the Obama family connection to the organization:

Barack Obama, along with his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, has been involved with Boundless Readers since its early days, including attending a ceremony for the Rochelle Lee Teacher Award while Obama was a U.S. senator.

Palm said the Obamas' support through the years has been important in the growth of Boundless Readers and WITS Chicago, which between them serve more than 75 schools in Chicago and is moving into the West Loop-based Literacenter next month.

"It's certainly a story we tell," said Palm about the organization's connection with the President. "It's something that we share."

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