• 72°
PHOTO BY MARÍA CAMP Susie Malone, president of the Russellville GFWC Book Lovers Study Club; Cindy Hall, director of Fame Girls Ranch; Karol Kapustka, AFWC North Region district director; and Suellen Brazil, GFWC secretary at the national level, gather to celebrate a major donation for FAME Girls Ranch. 

FAME Girls Ranch receives donation from General Federation of Women’s Clubs

By María Camp / For the FCT

The North District of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs of Alabama held its fall meeting Saturday at the First United Methodist Church in Russellville.

The GFWC Book Lovers Study Club of Russellville hosted the meeting, and one of their fundraising projects reached completion Saturday with the turning over of donated funds to the Fame Girls Ranch in Russellville – $200 from the Russellville GFWC Book Lovers Study Club and $100 from the North District GFWC of Alabama. Each club in North Alabama also brought money and items to donate.

Local club member Lela Ray said the silent auction resulted in more than $400 being raised for a high school senior to receive a scholarship. Susie Malone, president of the Russellville GFWC club, said a little more than $700 was raised to give to Fame Ranch at the meeting.

All GFWC members, including those on the board, are volunteers. Several areas of community involvement receive focus, including art, conservation, education, home life, international outreach, public issues and special programs.

Ellen Robinson, North District Treasurer, said GFWC members have completed 171,000 projects, donated $36 million dollars and contributed 7.2 million hours in volunteer service. Robinson said volunteer service is the rent people pay for the privileges they enjoy and that all are called to serve.

Suellen Brazil, GFWC secretary at the national level, said, “GFWC is celebrating 127 years of volunteer service. We are dedicated to enhancing lives.”

GFWC members, Brazil said, total 80,000 and hail from 12 countries and all 50 states.

“We have a long and prestigious history in advocacy, including for child labor laws and helping women achieve the ability to vote,” Brazil said. “In addition to the work we accomplish, we make lasting friendships with women we might otherwise never know.”

The Russellville Club participates in a variety of projects. Members Brenda Oliver and Rebecca Reeves mentioned working with libraries, raising money through pop top collection for families staying at the Ronald McDonald House, donating gowns for children undergoing cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries though Operation Smile, the annual Empty Bowl luncheon and Safeplace – not to mention the recent efforts for FAME Girls Ranch.

The ranch, also known as Colbert County Girls Ranch, is a nondenominational Christian mission. It is part of the Boys and Girls Ranches of Alabama.

FAME Girls Ranch is located in the former family home of legendary record producer Rick Hall, one of the founders of FAME Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, and his wife, Linda Hall, in Russellville.

Cindy M. Hall, director of the ranch, spoke at the meeting. “Our ranch provides professional care for girls who can’t live with their families due to the choices of adults in their lives. Since we opened, we have cared for more than 70 girls,” she said. “Our maximum capacity is 15, and we’re usually full. Our current girls range in age from 9-15. We have two houses, and we try to make life for our girls as much like a family as possible.”

Most of the girls at the ranch are from the foster care system and have been in and out of multiple homes. Siblings are sometimes able to stay together more easily by living at the ranch.

Cindy Hall said community support has been incredible, though there were a lot of financial struggles in the beginning. “We had to learn to be good stewards. We have found that some lessons can only be learned in a storm.”

According to statistics, about 400,000 children in the United States are in foster care; 6,000 of them are in Alabama. Half will not graduate from high school, and only 3 percent get their driver’s licenses by 18. A quarter of them suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder because of abuse, abandonment and neglect.

At FAME Girls Ranch, however, 98 percent graduate or get a GED, Cindy Hall explained. Twenty-two have been taught to drive over the past three years. Nineteen have been baptized while living there. Hall said, “The girls learn to have hope that their futures will be bright.”