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Our Mission

To put quality, age-appropriate books into the hands and homes of at-risk young children before they start kindergarten so they can be ready to succeed in school and life.

 Congratulations to Howard Lee Stewart of Florala, AL on being named the Alabama Kiwanis Foundation Jean Dean RIF 2020 "RIF Kid" Scholarship winner! 

Mike Winstead, Scholarship Chairman, AKF, and Cathy Gafford, Executive Director, Jean Dean RIF, join  in extending their personal congratulations and pride in the accomplishments of this year's winner and wish him "the best" in upcoming educational pursuits.  

Having begun his formal education in pre-school at the Florala Head Start, this year's scholarship winner graduated from Florala High School in 2020 and plans to attend the LBWCC MacArthur Campus where he plans to pursue a career in HVAC.

In high school he was active in Key Club, played basketball and baseball and worked weekends in a tree trimming business. He says receiving books from Jean Dean RIF/Kiwanis to own  at home during his early years gave him "quality reading time with his parents, inspired him to further his education and enhanced his imagination and empathy."





Good News for Alabama Kiwanians and the at-risk young children who need us in 2020-2021!


THANK YOU  again to all of you who have devoted so much of your time, talent and treasure to helping Jean Dean RIF, former signature service project of the Alabama Kiwanis Foundation,  put close to 2 million quality, age-appropriate books into the hands and homes of close to 615,000 at risk young children in the last 30 years. By May of 2020,  over 2000 volunteers had read 3 times a year and devoted over 360,000 hours doing book distributions and reading to the children in their communities.  Many more hours have been spent in managing volunteers and distributions, fund raising and doing the warehouse work necessary to get the books to the  distributions.  Since 1991, an in-kind contribution (based on your efforts) of over $16 million has been made to Alabama Head Starts, which has allowed them to justify another $64 million in grant funds to provide other benefits to the children and their families- PLUS the children have the books- for many, the FIRST AND ONLY BOOKS IN THEIR HOMES.  I am thrilled to know what can be accomplished by people who care and are willing to work together for a common goal, even if that work is handled in 67 different counties and over 500 different communities. THANK YOU for caring about Alabama's at-risk children and  DOING SOMETHING about meeting their needs! 

I will miss working with you this year and beyond through Jean Dean RIF to further our mission to put top quality, age-appropriate books into the hands and homes of at-risk young children.  Though the Jean Dean RIF program has been closed, Kiwanians' interest in literacy and helping young children will still have a big impact on Alabama through the local activities of your clubs.  I will continue to serve as the Young Child Priority One Chair for the Opelika Kiwanis Club and we will continue to do everything we can to help the children in need in our community during that very important time in their lives- between 0 and 5 years of age, the time when humans gain and retain the most in their lives- both mentally and physically.  I know you will continue to help as well. Opelika Kiwanis applied for and received a matching grant from National RIF to buy books to continue our local efforts to put books into the hands of at-risk young children.  At least 9 other Alabama Kiwanis Clubs have done the same. Your club may want to apply for some of these funds in the future as well. 

I know in the midst of the COVID crisis some clubs who wanted to do that for this year were unable to fund raise to apply for a grant and meet their "match".  Jean Dean RIF took  out a little "insurance" for Alabama Kiwanians and at-risk young children in Alabama whose "coverage" is available in 2020-2021.  During the COVID -19 shutdown, several of us were closing down the RIF warehouse in preparation for its sale on June 30.  Helping those in need-as always-was strong on our minds.  

GOOD NEWS ALABAMA KIWANIS FAMILY: I think you and your club members will be glad to know, before the RIF Warehouse was closed June 30, my faithful but very small crew  did find time to gather enough age-appropriate books to send to every site Jean Dean RIF served in 2019-2020 so it would be possible  to give 3 new books each to the children they serve in 2020-2021.   These  were a gift from Jean Dean RIF and there will be no cost to any Kiwanis Club for these books. If your club has been reading and wants to continue, contact me right away and I will connect you to a contact in your local Head Start so y'all can participate in the distribution of these books to those sites in 2020-2021.   I have personally maintained the jeandeanrif@gmail.com email and the number which has been used for years for RIF is my personal cell, 334-750-9974. Feel free to contact me if I can help you in any way 

Thanks, as always, for all you have done for Kiwanis, RIF, and "the babies" we have served!

Cathy Gafford


Open Books, Open Minds Luncheon, Saturday March 7, 2020

My purpose in having the Open Books Open Minds RIF Celebration was to thank the thousands of Kiwanians, program partners, volunteers and funders who have helped provide close to 2 million top- quality, age-appropriate books to over 620,000 at-risk young children in the last 30 years through Jean Dean RIF, signature service project of the Alabama Kiwanis Foundation

March 7, about 200 of us from across the state, gathered together in Montgomery to do just that!    Zarien Morris, AL CKI Governor,  kicked off the event with a moving rendition  of the Star Spangled Banner.   Featured speakers included Alicia Levi, President & CEO, Reading Is Fundamental,  Inc, Dr Calvin Moore, Jr, Regional Program Manager, Region IV, Office of Head Start Administration for Children & Families, Roger Williams, President, Alabama Kiwanis Foundation, Alabama District of Kiwanis Governor Bob Brown, 30  year volunteer Paul England, Lt Governor & member Monroeville Kiwanis, and Javier Figueroa, member of Alabama CKI District Board and 1st recipient of  AKF Jean Dean RIF KID Scholarship.  The event was hosted by the Alabama Kiwanis Foundation and ably planned and executed by Carol and Russ  Grimes.

Some time ago I heard a speaker say the true meaning of kindness is helping people you don’t even know.  I’d say the many people who have worked together to help at-risk young children through Jean Dean RIF are some of the kindest people I have ever known.  Thank all of you for helping thousands of children have the HOPE of doing well in school and life.

Cathy Gafford, Executive Director, Jean Dean RIF


Breakfast for Books, Saturday Feb. 1, 2020

Many thanks to  all who bought tickets and attended the last official fund raiser for Jean Dean RIF yesterday.  We cleared over $1200!  That will be a big help in providing the funds needed to support this  year's efforts to give another close to 20,000 at-risk young children 3  top-quality, age-appropriate books in 2019-2020-- the 30th and last year of Jean Dean RIF/Kiwanis! 

We truly appreciate the use of the Fellowship Hall at First Presbyterian Church of Opelika for this event, Lynne and Jerry Schwarzauer providing their expertise and the food that was served, our faithful cooks, "kitchen help" and volunteers who worked together to be sure our guests had delicious pancakes, sausage and milk, juice or coffee as promised!!  We benefited from the presence of our local author, Jenny Filush-Glaze, and enjoyed the photos streaming from past "RIF breakfasts"   thanks to Glenn Buxton. We also appreciated all of the advance public relations from The O-A News, The Oberver  and iHeart Media. The A-O Emblem Club Breakfast for Books is a longtime success thanks to the efforts of the A-O Emblem Club ladies, their support of local literacy efforts and talents at selling tickets and baking tasty goodies which add to the profits . 

Many, many thanks again to all who attended our 2020 Breakfast for Books and all the others who worked together to make sure it was "just right" for the folks who came to support our mission.



12th And Final Run to Read! 

Many, many thanks to everyone who worked together to make the 12th and FINAL Jean Dean RIF RUN TO READ a success!!  Our wonderful sponsors, fantastic Run Committee, super volunteers from all over Lee County and  from Calhoun County, plus the runners and walkers themselves made it possible for us to net over $10,500 to help put books in the homes of children who need them all over Alabama.  We appreciate your help and so do these children and their families!!  Special thanks also to the City of Opelika, Opelika Police and Fire Departments, the Opelika Parks and Rec Department, ESG, the USA Town Center, Opelika City Council President Eddie Smith, Emcee Glenn Buxton, Guest Author Dean Bonner, Clifford the Big Red Dog and Aubie!
  Run to Read 2019

National Make A Difference Day



Many thanks to the over 60 Circle K, Key Club and Kiwanis members who came to the Jean Dean RIF  Warehouse in Opelika and helped inventory and put bookplates in close to 10,000 RIF books on Tri-K Day, October 5, 2019!  Circle K brought well over half our volunteers and we really appreciated it!  Members of the Kiwanis Family came from all over the state to help us get ready for the 30th and final Jean Dean RIF year of service to close to 20,000 at-risk young children across Alabama!


Congratulations Nyah Denise Vincent!! 


2019 Alabama Kiwanis Foundation, Inc.
"Jean Dean RIF Kid" Scholarship Winner!!!

    Nyah Denise Vincent, recent graduate of Northview High School in Dothan, AL who attended preschool at Dothan City Schools Head Start.

We so proud of you.

Ride to Read June1, 2019

Ride to Read 2019
Many thanks to all who participated in the "LAST" Ride to Read benefiting Jean Dean RIF and this time, also honoring longtime volunteer Lynn Grimes. We had a great time and cleared $3400 to help buy books for "the babies" we serve through Jean Dean RIF (Reading Is Fundamental) . Many, many thank yous to our Ride committee, the Big Swamp, volunteers, sponsors and riders who have supported our RIDE TO READ for well over a decade!!

Breakfast for Books. Saturday Feb. 2, 2019


Run to Read October 27, 2018

Run to Read 2018