Former Beckley residents Mark and Teresa Neil say they discovered a love of reading and the arts at a fairly young age.

The couple now hopes to pass along that love to future generations in Raleigh County by establishing the Mark and Teresa Neil Family Fund.

The designated fund, set up through the Beckley Area Foundation, will support reading programs that promote elementary reading as well as performing arts education in grades K-12 in Raleigh County Schools.

Teresa Neil said she remembers the joy reading brought to her as child as she wants other children to be able to have that same experience.

“I was a member of the Dr. Seuss Book Club when I was six and it was the most thrilling thing when I would come home and there would be a book in the mailbox,” she said. “I pretty much memorized all of them.”

The couple said they also believe that reading is one of the most important skills for a child to learn.

“Reading opens up the door to the rest of the world,” Mark Neil said.

While the couple has now relocated to the Northern Neck of Virginia after retiring, they said Beckley still holds an important place in their hearts, having met while doing theater in Beckley.

“We’re getting to the point in our life where we’re saying ‘Ok, we need to do something’ and we’ve known about (the Beckley Area Foundation) forever . . . and reading is important to us and the arts is important to us and Raleigh County is important to us so it just seemed to fit,” Teresa Neil said.

Teresa Neil said she hopes one of things their fund is able to do is give books to children who may not be able to afford them.

“We just think it’s very important,” she said. “It’s the core thing. If you can read, you can do everything.”

Mark Neil said they also chose to support performing arts because it is through reading that many discover the arts.

“Performing arts to me are a natural extension of the journey that learning to read begins,” he said. “It allows the imagination that reading creates to take other forms of expression and is so important to young people in their development.”

The couple said they intended to give to this fund in the future and they hope others will add to it as well.

Anyone interested in donating to this fund may mail contributions with “Neil Family Fund” in the memo to BAF, 129 Main St. Suite 301, Beckley, WV 25801 or donate online.

Those interested in starting a donor designated fund or leaving a legacy gift can call BAF at 304-253-3806 or email

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