Category: Non-Profit Spotlight

Community Spotlight: The Liberty Learning Foundation

Sometimes, it’s difficult not be consumed by negative newspaper articles or cable news shows that leave you frazzled and questioning the direction of our nation. Luckily, our school kids, with the help of the Liberty Learning Foundation, are on their way and ready to show us what it means to be a good citizen. 

The Liberty Learning Foundation (LLF), a nonprofit and nonpartisan 501(c)(3), is dedicated to teaching, inspiring, and empowering school children to know about civics, history, good character, community engagement, financial responsibility, and career readiness. These important subjects are often cut by school systems eager to focus on teach-to-test subjects like science and math. Liberty is built on the belief that science and math alone cannot continue our nation’s progress, and that a curriculum that includes lessons about the history of our nation and what it means to be a good citizen add to the overall well being of students.

The mission for the Liberty Learning Foundation began with a simple question: How can schools, community leaders, and businesses work together to ensure out next generation understands its important role in America’s future? The answer is a ten-week Super Citizen program that includes a big kick off with an appearance by Libby Liberty, a professionally-developed curriculum, project-based learning, and an ending celebration that shows children what they’re capable of when they work together. 

I recently had the great opportunity to attend the Liberty Learning Foundation Kick-Off Event for Huntsville City Second Graders (and get my picture with Libby Liberty). It was such a fun and unique event that served as a pep rally for the ten-week educational program. The children left excited about the opportunity to learn more about history and servant leadership. 

Lady Liberty and Jessica Smith

Liberty Learning Foundation currently serves over 40,000 students in 270 schools and communities around Alabama, and they want to grow! They primarily rely on private donations to sustain and grow the program because they don’t want to burden school systems with an unfunded program.

Let us know if you are interested learning more about Liberty Learning Foundation or attending one of their local kick-off programs with area schools. If you are a believer in the importance of teaching history, civics and good citizenship to children, it is an event I think you’ll enjoy. Our friend, Dr. John Kvach, Vice President of Liberty Learning Foundation, has offered personal invitations and would be happy to speak with you more on how the Liberty Learning Foundation is creating the “next generation of great Americans”.    

Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center

I had the good fortune of serving in Leadership Huntsville/Madison County’s Connect Class 19 with Melissa Reynolds, Executive Director of Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center. I saw and felt Melissa’s passion around her work with Merrimack Hall, and I have had the joy of seeing the teams of entertainers from Merrimack perform at a number of events around town. They never fail to put a smile on my face and fill the house will applause.

Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center is a 501©(3) nonprofit organization located in the historic Merrimack Mill Village neighborhood of Huntsville, Alabama. Merrimack offers arts education and social and cultural opportunities to children, teens, and adults with intellectual and physical disabilities.

Debra and Alan Jenkins purchased Merrimack Hall in May 2006 and established the organization as a 501©(3) nonprofit. After nearly $2.5 million in renovations donated personally by the Jenkins family, Merrimack Hall opened to the public in 2007. The facility is now home to a 300-seat performance hall, 3,000 square foot dance studio, and community spaces. Merrimack Hall utilizes these spaces as a venue for socialization and activities for the individuals enrolled in their outreach programs.

Merrimack Hall is home to The Happy Headquarters. The Happy Headquarters has three distinct components:

  • Happy HeARTs – A year-round after-school program of arts education that includes classes in dance, creative movement, choir, yoga, fitness, creative writing and multi-media visual arts
  • Happy Days – A day program for adults 18+ that is focused on arts-related activities, music therapy and life skills
  • Happy Camp – A series of half-day summer camps.

Merrimack Hall serves hundreds of children and adults with special needs diagnoses such as Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and a host of other conditions. They believe everyone deserves the right to participate in the arts regardless of their disabilities. Their Happy team can be found performing all over the city of Huntsville. Visit the Events section of their Facebook page for where you can find them next.

Merrimack Hall relies on the support of over 800 volunteers each year.  Volunteer coaches work with the students in their Johnny Stallings Arts Program (JSAP) to learn music, art, and dance.  More importantly, they serve as mentors and friends to their partners with special needs.  In each program component of JSAP, they encourage their volunteers to interact with students in a meaningful way to create lasting friendships.

For more information, visit them on the web at http://www.merrimackhall.com/, by calling (256) 534-6455, or by e-mail at info@merrimackhall.com.


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