Tuesday, December 29, 2015

EDITORIAL >> The season for giving

Two generous gifts brightened Christmas for youngsters in the area. The Defense Department has awarded $250,000 to the Jacksonville Lighthouse charter schools to improve educational opportunities for students at K-12 school on North First Street and the middle school Flightline Academy on the air base.

“This grant will boost our continuing efforts to improve student learning through the use of research-based practices and programs designed to help our scholars to be college and career ready. Our goal is that every scholar is accepted to a four-year institution upon graduation. This is a great opportunity for our scholars to receive more support to help with that effort,” stated Lenisha Broadway, regional vice president of Lighthouse Academies.

Children of military families will benefit from the program, which puts special emphasis on teaching kids whose parents are frequently deployed overseas.

Many thanks to the Pentagon for reaching out to youngsters deserving of help. In addition to the $250,000 grant, the Air Force will help fund a new elementary school near the base if Jacksonville voters approve a 7.6-mill increase to pay for a $60 million high school and other improvements in the long-neglected district.

Gwatney Chevrolet last week gave the Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club a $15,000 Christmas gift, which will help keep the club going as city funding is expected to drop next year. The gift comes just in time since the Boys and Girls Club will lose Jacksonville Advertising and Promotion money for 2016.

The Boys and Girls Club budget for 2016 is $87,000. In 2015, the Boys and Girls Club received $9,500 from the Jacksonville Advertising and Promotion Commission and requested $30,000 for next year.

The commission collects a penny hamburger tax, but will no longer be able to support the Boys and Girls Club, the military museum and other worthy organizations since the state Constitution prohibits the “appropriation of money by municipal corporations to private corporations,” according to a recent court ruling.

The good folks at Gwatney Chevrolet said they’re happy to help. Gwatney has supported American Legion baseball for decades and helps other local groups and causes every day.

Brad West, a spokesman for Gwatney Chevrolet, said supporting the club is “a no-brainer…. It needs the community’s help.”

“Gwatney has been in business in Jacksonville since 1957 and has grown with the community,” West added. “The Boys and Girls Club started in the early 1970s at an old church building by Jacksonville Elementary. The community has been unbelievably good to Gwatney, and we wanted to support these kids.”

West belonged to the boys and club when he was a youngster and is now its vice chairman. The club is where kids can play sports, get a meal and tutoring and learn life skills and more.

Mayor Gary Fletcher said the city owns the building and is available for use for churches and groups to meet. The city cannot pay the nonprofit employees’ salaries and their benefits.

Thank you, Harold Gwatney, Jamie Cobb, Brad West for your generous support of the Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club. Here’s hoping other generous donors will give to the club and ensure its continued success.

The Boys and Girls Club also received $100 from Mark Perry with Modern Woodmen of America for being selected as a Hometown Hero by the company. A couple dozen other local companies — financial institutions, supermarkets, restaurant chains and others — could guarantee the future of the Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club.

The club had 357 registered members from ages 6 to 18 in 2015. It is open five days a week after school and on Saturdays during the club’s basketball season. In addition, the club is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. during school holiday breaks and summer.

Lonoke County is expected to get a Boys and Girls Club charter next year. Businesses and individuals there can help by contacting Natalie Cope at Renew Church in Cabot.

Give a tax-deductible gift and change a child’s life today.