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Charity founder speaks at Chamber luncheon

Published 4:24pm Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Chilton County Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday featured a presentation from a man who has dedicated his life to fighting poverty.

Russell A. Jackson founded Kid One Transport and now serves as the vice president and chief advancement officer for Edmundite Missions, based in Selma.

Jackson talked about growing up in Hoover without knowing what life was like for those less fortunate.

Russell A. Jackson (left) with Edmundite Missions spoke Tuesday at the Chilton County Chamber of Commerce's monthly luncheon. Jackson was introduced by Janice Hull, managing consultant for the chamber.
Russell A. Jackson (left) with Edmundite Missions spoke Tuesday at the Chilton County Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon. Jackson was introduced by Janice Hull, managing consultant for the chamber.

In 1992, according to the Kid One Transport website, Jackson was on duty with the Hoover Fire Department when an emergency call was received by his station. When Jackson and his unit arrived on scene, they found a 2-year-old boy who had strangled himself in the window of his father’s SUV while trying to retrieve a toy from within the vehicle. Despite Jackson’s best efforts to revive him, the toddler died in Jackson’s arms as the boy’s parents looked on.

“I took it very, very hard,” Jackson said.

To cope with the emotions stirred by this experience, he began volunteering in one of the poorest communities in the state, on the border between Jefferson and Walker counties. It was during this volunteer work that Jackson came in contact with a young boy who had never spoken a word in his life. The child’s parents assumed he was mentally disabled. The boy had never visited a physician of any kind in his short life because his parents lived well below the poverty line and never owned a vehicle.

Realizing that the child needed medical attention to properly diagnose his condition, Jackson loaded the boy in his car and drove him to Children’s Hospital, which was 45 minutes away from the boy’s home. While at Children’s Hospital, doctors discovered a lesion on the boy’s brain. The lesion was removed and, with the help of a therapist and Jackson’s dedication to making sure that the child made it to his therapy appointments, the boy learned to speak.

It was this experience that sparked Jackson’s curiosity. He began researching the need for transportation to health care services for children in Alabama and discovered that there were tens of thousands of families lacking safe, reliable transportation options throughout the state. He soon realized that the death of that toddler a few years earlier was not in vain. From this moment, the dream of Kid One was born.

“I realized poverty is a huge issue,” Jackson said. “We all took so much for granted growing up.”

Kid One’s purpose, according to kidone.org, is “to bridge the transportation gap that prevents thousands of Alabama’s children and expectant mothers from accessing much needed health care services, thereby ensuring a higher quality of life for each individual and family that we serve.”

Kid One transports children and expectant mothers, who have limited or no transportation, to medical care.

Today, Kid One operates a fleet of 21 vehicles serving 39 counties throughout Alabama. At its inception, Kid One consisted of one man, one van, and a vision for making access to health care a reality for children in need across this state.

After “passing the baton” to Kid One’s current leadership, Jackson became involved with Girl Scouts and then Edmundite Missions, which has served people living in poverty in the Black Belt region of Alabama since 1937.

The Missions sponsor outreach ministries, including food pantries and feeding programs, elder care, housing replacement and repair, learning and community centers, clothing thrift stores and emergency assistance.

Jackson pointed out that Wilcox County in Alabama is the poorest county in the country. There are more than 700 homeless people in Selma, he said, and 43.5 percent of the city’s population lives in poverty.

Jackson shared the motto of Father Frank Casey, who founded the Missions: “Do the best we can, with what little we have, to serve those most in need.”

“A lot of great things have happened out of there,” Jackson said.

For more information about poverty in Alabama, visit AlabamaPossible.org.

Earlier in the luncheon, it was announced that Kelsey’s Place Murder Mystery fundraiser will be held Saturday, the Butterfly Bridge Run charity motorcycle ride will be held June 14 and the annual Peach Jam Jubilee will be June 27.

There will be no Chamber luncheon for July because of the July Fourth holiday. For the next luncheon, on Aug. 5, the guest speaker will be Bill Canary with the Business Council of Alabama.

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