One Spark: Jean Dean RIF

Who would have guessed in December of 1990, that the Reading Is Fundamental project started that year in Alabama as a part of the Kiwanis International Young Child (0-5) Priority One Program to serve "about 2000" at-risk young children would have served 275,000 at-risk young children by 2005? Who knew the Jean Dean RIF/Alabama Kiwanis project would be the largest RIF program in the United States serving pre-schoolers from its very first year? In early 1991, when the RIF project became a part of the fledgling Alabama Kiwanis Foundation in order for donations to be tax exempt, who, in their wildest dreams, could have imagined that in order to secure permanent warehouse and office space for the program in 2004, the Alabama Kiwanis Foundation/Jean Dean RIF would BUY a building?

For 14 years, Jean Dean RIF was able to "grow and go" because of the extreme generosity of many people ... several of them in the Opelika Kiwanis Club. These people and many others are true heroes of Jean Dean RIF. Past Club President, and one of the owners of Lambert Transfer & Storage, Carlton Hunley provided free warehouse space for the RIF project from '90-'91 through '03-'04. Past Club President and Past District Governor Joe Dean provided free office space/utilities, equipment, supplies, "sweat equity" and a lot more to the program during that same timeframe. Club members Joe Dean, Jr. and Tutt Barrett have provided free fax and copying and free legal services, as needed, since 1990. Lambert Transfer moved to its new location in December of '03 and the building we were using was put on the market. The building formerly occupied by Joe Dean Agency was sold in the spring of '04. For over a year, Jean Dean RIF searched diligently for a permanent home, daily looking at buildings, talking with owners, contractors, bankers, city officials, board members, etc. to try to get permanent space.

Various promising spots "fell through" along the way. Having RIF semi-homeless and looking at place after place that wouldn't work made it even clearer what a big favor all of these men have done for years for the at-risk young children served through Jean Dean RIF.

Jean Dean RIF started its fifteenth year serving children in its new home. By the end of '04-'05, everything that has to do with the program will be under one roof for the first time. The building on Fitzpatrick Avenue is perfect for the needs of the program ... a 7500 square foot metal warehouse in a decent neighborhood with relative safety for our books and volunteers. The building is large enough to house the 80,000 books distributed each year plus provide a small office/storage space. The Alabama Kiwanis Foundation, supported by the fundraising efforts of Jean Dean RIF, has made a down payment on the building and procured a loan in order to purchase the property. Now, it is important for Jean Dean RIF to get the building paid for so all efforts can be toward serving the 26,000 at-risk young children in Alabama who need books and the many more who are on a waiting list.

A big, on-going need for the next three to five years will be helping to conclude the first ever Jean Dean RIF capital campaign! In August 2004, Jean Dean RIF/Alabama Kiwanis Foundation kicked off a $190,000 capital campaign to pay off the loan (& interest) on permanent warehouse/office space for JEAN DEAN RIF, make repairs as needed, pay maintenance on the facility and begin to develop a reserve fund for the building after the loan is satisfied. $15,000 had been raised already. The plan is to raise at least an additional $35,000 a year for the capital campaign during the next 5 years. Our goal is to do that in three years if at all possible to cut down on the amount going to interest and instead, use it to develop a reserve for needs for the building. To date, a total of $35,000 has been received through the capital campaign. Efforts are underway to raise at least another $40,000 before October '05.

Kiwanis Clubs have partnered with local businesses for years to help pay for the books for the children served through Jean Dean RIF. Purchasing the books through group buys and sending them to local areas saves at least 50% on the cost of books for Alabama's at-risk young children. Having the program administered from one location assures stability and longevity for the program and saves a lot of set-up time for local volunteers. It is a necessary part of the program that most funders, volunteers and sites served never see.

All donations to Jean Dean RIF are tax deductible because it is a part of the Alabama Kiwanis Foundation.
You can donate through Paypal or credit card at the top of the screen, or write a check to: Jean Dean RIF at PO Box 848, Opelika, AL 36803-0848. On the "for" line, please write "capital campaign". Donations are promptly recognized with proper tax documentation.

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