The Montclair Rotary Club has helped a generation of elementary school students in Montclair and Verona get a jump-start in building their vocabulary. Over the past 18 years, the club has donated more than 15,500 student dictionaries to third grade students in both communities. The first groups of students to receive their dictionaries have graduated from high school and finished college.

Montclair Rotarian Georgia “Dictionary Peach” Brown brought The Dictionary Project to the two communities in 2004 and has coordinated the effort the entire time. Annually, Brown and volunteers from the club distribute student dictionaries to pupils at 15 private, parochial and public elementary schools in Montclair and Verona. This winter and spring they delivered a total of 1,401 dictionaries to third and fourth graders in both communities.

Brown’s enthusiasm for the project earned her the nickname “Dictionary Peach,” a reference to her home state of Georgia.

“I was a natural choice to chair The Dictionary Project committee because I have always loved words,” she said. “And I am a curious person, and good dictionaries have thousands of words plus an abundance of useful information.”

Brown embraced the project because she believes that learning is a lifetime habit. Dictionaries, she added, are tools people can always use.

Students from the following Montclair schools received dictionaries this year: Bradford Elementary School, Charles H. Bullock School, Edgemont Montessori Elementary School, Hillside Elementary School, Lacordaire Academy, Montclair Cooperative School, Northeast Elementary School, St. Cassian Elementary School and Watchung Elementary School.

Typically, the Rotary Club gives dictionaries to third graders. But when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted that schedule during 2020 and 2021, Brown decided to expand the project this year to include fourth grade classes in the dictionary distribution.

The Montclair Rotary Foundation, which is a nonprofit, has funded the purchase of dictionaries along with contributions by individuals. The foundation also supplies financial grants to hunger relief efforts, affordable housing initiatives and international youth exchange programs.

The Montclair Rotary Club is celebrating 100 years of serving the local community during 2022.

Brown, who is retired from the U.S. Postal Service’s office in Montclair, is completing her last year as chairperson of The Dictionary Project.

“I have many wonderful memories meeting and speaking with students at each of the local schools,” she said. “When I hand the dictionary to students, I often see a sparkle of gratitude in their eyes, and that makes all the effort worthwhile.”