Where’s Bill? Visiting Chapter 510 & The Dept of Make Believe

Bill Somerville recently visited Janet Heller, founder and CEO of Chapter 510, to hear about how it has developed since we last funded them. Bill met Janet four years ago and created a designated fund for Chapter 510, which was then just a literacy and writing project.

Chapter 510 offered writing and bookmaking workshops, and students produced books about the Harlem Renaissance, bread, weather, and planets. The organization worked closely with MetWest High School, Acorn Elementary, North Oakland Community Charter School, libraries, and non-profits to support youth writing and promote youth voices. “Teachers are shouting for more arts opportunities, as they know that the arts deepen student learning,” Janet says.

Now, located in at 2301 Telegraph in downtown Oakland, Chapter 510’s storefront, the Department of Make Believe, sells items such as worry containment tubes, dehydrated courage, and licenses to dream. Proceeds from the store support Chapter 510’s in-school and afterschool programs, where volunteers help children improve their writing skills and increase their confidence.

Chapter 510 has entered Chapter Development with 826 National and will becoming part of their network of youth literary centers. “San Francisco has the pirate store. Oakland has its Dept of Make Believe,” tweeted Twitter writer Angela Kilduff.

We at PVF are proud to have been a first funder of this organization that teaches children in Oakland to write while inspiring their imaginations. We have also partnered with Chapter 510 to administer Youth Opportunity Scholarships for high school students. “Chapter 510 was born with PVF’s Teacher Resource Grants…. PVF’s approach to incubation has created a dynamic resource for Oakland,” says Janet.

Visit Chapter 510’s writing sanctuary, and take a number at their magical bureaucracy, the Department of Make Believe.  Sign up for upcoming spring writing workshops.

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