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GAKAC assists 281 locals

By Staff
Kim West
It's been only two months since Give A Kid A Chance held its annual back-to-school day at the Florence Coliseum but the GAKAC board members have already started fundraising for next year's event.
The organization, a non-denominational outreach ministry founded in 2003 by Preston and Debbie Jennings, registered 873 students in grades K-12 this year and has set a goal to assist 1,000 children in 2009.
"We had our largest turnout from Franklin County this year," said Donna Fisher, GAKAC board member and a former Russellville resident. "We fed between 2,220 and 2,300 people that day, and we had nearly 900 kids who participated in the event."
Each student receives a backpack filled with supplies specific to his or her grade and school and a brand-new outfit of jeans, shoes and shirt. The children are also provided ministry activities, lunch with their family, haircuts and basic medical, dental and eye exams at the back-to-school event.
"Our goal is to have them fully equipped for the first day of school," Fisher said. "We give them new items because we don't want to put a target on these kids, and the other kids don't know that we've helped.
"We put two months' worth of school supplies in their backpack, and the whole point is to get them excited about going back to school."
Despite being based in Lauderdale County, GAKAC provides school supplies to children from Colbert, Franklin, Lawrence, Marion and Winston counties. This year GAKAC helped approximately 281 students from Franklin County, including 196 from Russellville City Schools and 85 from Franklin County Schools.
This year's event had a budget of nearly $61,000 with more than $52,000 coming from donations, which included only $500 from Franklin County.
"Where we are now, 95 percent of our funding comes from Lauderdale County, and we're getting pressure from these donors to help students from that county," Fisher said. "But we don't turn down children from another county if they're pre-registered."
GAKAC, which pre-registers children during the spring and summer, had to turn down more than 200 students this year after reaching the registration limit.
"We're going to help as many as we can but with the economy it's getting more and more difficult," said Debbie Jennings.
"My husband and I started this six years ago, and we did it with about 20 people and helped 250 children.
"We always want to be able to do more, and our prayer is that someone will step up to the plate and be willing to (expand the program)."
For more information, contact Jennings at (256) 764-4664 or Fisher at (256) 767-4124 or visit www.gakac.com.