For 12 years, Walker Furniture
has sponsored a program that promotes reading among Clark County School District students, particularly those in some of the region’s most economically challenged neighborhoods.
Walker co-owners Linda Alterwitz-Mizrahi and her brother, Larry Alterwitz, have provided numerous schools, particularly in low-income neighborhoods, with furniture and bookshelves to create spaces that encourage youngsters to sit, think and read.
In addition to co-managing the longtime family business, Alterwitz-Mizrahi is a visual artist, whose work studies the “intersection of art and science. Her inspiration, the inner workings of the human body and external environment.” She has had solo and joint exhibitions in the United States and England.
This year, Walker joined with Spread the Word Nevada, a 16-year-old, local non-profit that is in 45 schools with the mission of putting books in the homes of low-income children, targeting the most vulnerable children in the valley, and giving them books.
In this week’s Tuesday Conversation, we talk with Alterwitz-Mizrahi about her family’s longtime commitment through Walker Furniture to provide resources to Las Vegas Valley schools.
Q: What are you looking for?
A: Schools that don’t have enough money from the district, older schools, schools that need our support, physical support for the building or emotional support for the teachers, staff and students. It’s a real boost to get to win a prize, and that’s what we want to offer them, for the students to be the winner of a competition. How often does that happen in one’s life?
Q: How are you choosing the winners?
A: Usually they are participants in art or writing competitions that are offered through the Clark County School District, winners of the competitions who earn the awards.
Q: How do you measure excellence in education?
A: Education builds our business. It builds a community, and that’s really important to us, being a locally owned and operated business for over 60 years. It’s important for us to give back to the community that has been so good to us, and what better way than through education and the students and the teachers?
Q: What’s the message you’re sending by honoring schools?
A: For the students, do a great job and you’re honored
, you’re recognized, and the sky’s the limit. That’s my personal philosophy. There’s not a cap to what you can do. A student can write a paper and win money and honor from his or her peers and teachers, and that’s really special to start it, and maybe they’ll continue on and get honors the rest of their lives. So it’s example building.
Q: How much of a child’s educational success is about the school? How much is about the family?
A: I would say it’s equal. There are a lot of great educators in the Clark County School District, great teachers, and my kids had a lot of good teachers. Without the parents’ support or a caring adult, to push them through I think it’s more challenging for the student.
Q: Is our education system providing you with the employees that you need for your business?
A: We have certain standards when we hire, that they need to have a certain education and ability to communicate, and so our employees are all at a high level.
You have to choose well. You go through the applications, you do the interviews and you find the right person, but we always seem to find the right people to fit with us.
Q: Describe some of the giving-initiatives that you sponsor.
A: We offer competitions to lower school, middle school and two for upper school. So, they’re throughout the year. They’re different competitions.
The last one was named, “All About Reading,” in support of Nevada Reading Week. Students at the winning school, Ira J. Earl Elementary School, in Las Vegas, read 1,300 books and were the winners of a reading corner, furnished by Walker Furniture. It’s going to include a big, fluffy rug, bookcases and comfortable places for them to sit instead of little plastic chairs. It honors not only the students but also the librarian and principal for getting it all together, and everybody feels good.
Q: How does a reading corner like that change the climate and culture of a building?
A: The program used to be called, “Read, Read, Read,” and it was a different competition where we would give money for books. This is the first year we’ve done, “All About Reading,” and not only are we providing a reading corner but we are providing 400 books to the winner, partnering with “Spread the Word Nevada,” and so we’re giving books for the corner, and a whole area for their comfort.
Q: What do you hope comes out of it for the kids and staff at the winning school?
A: Really to be proud that they won this, and for the future students who may not know about the competition to be comfortable and to appreciate that reading is good.
Q: And how does it make you feel?
A: To support education is one of our core values because education is so important in our community. These are the kids who are going to be running our city and our state and the future. So, we need to focus on them.