Carol Jenkins Barnett, daughter of Publix Super Markets founder George W. Jenkins and president and chairman of Publix Super Markets Charities, has received the Champion for Literacy award from the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy at the organization’s 17th annual Florida Celebration of Reading.
The award honors recipients for a lifetime of supporting literacy for everyone. Barnett’s work in this area includes the 1998 launch of Publix’s Feed Me a Story reading initiative; her appointment by then-governor Jeb Bush as vice chair of the Florida Partnership for School Readiness Board, in which capacity she oversaw state’s efforts to implement a voluntary pre-kindergarten program; Publix Super Market Charities’ early support of the Florida Celebration of Reading, which began in 2001; and her creation of the United Way’s statewide Reading Pals early literacy program in 2011.
“As I surveyed the landscape of Florida in search of leaders who were truly committed to the vision of early literacy, I immediately thought of Carol and knew that her insight would be invaluable,” noted Gov. Bush. “Her leadership and dedication helped shape the program that has helped nearly 2 million Florida children start school equipped with the literacy skills they need to succeed.”
“Carol has proven herself to be a leader and philanthropist who cares deeply about the cause of early literacy,” said Brian Gallagher, president and CEO of Alexandria, Va.-based United Way Worldwide. “Thanks to her generous spirit and dedication to improving lives through education, children and families throughout Florida — and the nation — have brighter futures.”
“It’s been amazing to witness the exponential effect of Carol’s trailblazing work over these last two decades,” observed Liza McFadden, president and CEO of the Tallahassee, Fla.-based Barbara Bush Foundation. “The first time we met, she had just visited an elementary school in her local community, and was alarmed by the literacy skill levels among the children she met there.
“She left that visit with an immediate drive and commitment to move the needle for literacy, first in Polk County, then throughout the state, and in partnership with the foundation, her touch is now felt nationally,” continued McFadden.
Last June, Barnett revealed that she was living with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease and at that time stepped down from the board of directors of Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix, although she remained with Publix Super Markets Charities.