Last month my husband and I were driving south on the 101 Freeway when we saw black smoke in the distance. The traffic on the 101 was slow and I was getting anxious. I worried that the fire was located in Carpinteria, where we live. But from the freeway, we saw a Summerland apartment building being consumed by flames and black smoke. I said a prayer for the occupants as we continued on our journey to visit my mother in-law in Long Beach.
On arriving home Sunday night, we learned that the topmost duplex lost to the fire was rented by a friend of ours, Lee Neill. Her cat, and everything that Lee owned, was destroyed by the fire.
Lee Neill is an incredible woman. With a doctorate in education, Lee has spent her life teaching children in our community how to read and write. If a parent could not afford to pay for tutoring, Lee was the first to donate her time at no cost. Lee’s deep commitment to the children of our community started in 1964. Before opening up her private practice in Summerland, Lee, who specializes in sensory integration, had been a classroom teacher, counselor, reading specialist, and consultant to public and private schools, as well as a national speaker on learning disabilities.
Lee works with children from kindergarten on up, focusing on their strengths while identifying their learning styles. Most importantly, Lee teaches children and their parents to understand how their brain works and why they learn in a different way. She has had a positive impact on the lives of many children in our community who have learning differences. She has done this with love and a deep dedication to the children she has worked with over the last 40-plus years.
I am writing this open letter to reach out to our community, especially to the children and adults whom Lee has taught to read and write. I am asking for your help in Lee’s time of need. She needs to replace learning materials and activities she uses with her students.
A “Lee P. Neill Recovery Fund” has recently been established at the Coast Village Road Branch of Montecito Bank and Trust. For those who wish donate to Lee’s recovery account, you may drop by and make a donation during regular banking hours. Thank you in advance for your concern and generosity.
Joan T. Esposito is founder and program director of the Dylexia Awareness and Resource Center.