Light a Candle for Literacy Taking Time to Celebrate Geneva Hayden


Because of her decades of community involvement, the Light a Candle for Literacy program will be hosting an appreciation dinner for Mrs. Geneva Hayden entitled “Celebrate Geneva”.

So there it was a normal Tuesday afternoon, August 13, 2019; sun shining brightly and then it happened, more light was brought to the Southside of Syracuse, right across from the Children’s Garden on Midland Avenue.

“Team Progressive” Insurance arrives to volunteer

A van, a couple of cars, and six associates from Progressive showed up to bring additional light to the Light a Candle for Literacy Program. With shovel, concrete and excitement the staff of Progressive installed a community library. Installed and filled with an assortment of books to enhance our children’s growth, development and curiosity,

As I watched the over joy on Mrs. Geneva Hayden’s face as she hugged a few of the children who regularly attend her afterschool and summer program; I too could feel the compassion pouring out of her heart and soul as she watched the children began looking through the vast assortment of books which we to fill the newly installed library.

With the purpose of “Take one, Leave one” amazingly each child choose books two or three which sparked their interest. Right away Mrs. Hayden knew and applauded the youth with their selections, as she would say to them, “individually you are going to be great”, emphasizing their interest in nature to one and to another; “you are interested in the world” as he choose a book on the Pyramids. To each one Mrs. Hayden gave a hug, told them how great they were and how much she loved them. No wonder her program has had the longevity it has; with her now, leader Miss Sue Wood sharing with the Progressive staff that she has been working with Mrs. Hayden for over twenty years:” that says something about the program”.

A Children’s Library being installed where it all began: The Hayden House.

Mrs. Geneva Hayden, a Syracuse legend who from the early 1990s began by opening up her family home to neighboring children teaching and pouring into their souls the importance of acquiring literacy skills. Her home became a place where her living room served as a library where children could check out books and have computer access, as well as offering help with their homework. This led to her founding Communities United to Rebuild Neighborhoods (CURN), a block-by-block program that engaged parents and children in neighborhood pride. From there she launched Light A Candle for Literacy, a volunteer-run afterschool and summer literacy program for school-age youth in grades K-5 where she teaches children about morals and good character like respect, responsibility, honesty and caring.

Her determination to feed young minds didn’t just start outwardly. She and her husband have raised four of their own children and having led by example, have taught them how important it is to help others strive for success and greatness. She has been recognized by various educational and community organizations for the love and tireless encouragement and advocacy for literacy in various parts of our city to this very day.

Because of her decades of community involvement, the Light a Candle for Literacy program will be hosting an appreciation dinner for Mrs. Geneva Hayden entitled “Celebrate Geneva”.

The event will be held at the CNY Community Foundation, 431 East Fayette Street, Syracuse, NY on September 6, 2019.