The Jackson County Learning Center will host their first annual "Polar Bear Plunge: Freezn' for a Reason" event Saturday, March 9, 11 a.m at the Jacksonport State Park.
The group looks to raise funds in order to build a new building for the learning center on the property, next to Kroger, they purchased in 2011. Jackson County Learning Center executive director, Glenda Rutledge-May, says the group borrowed the idea from the Special Olympics. "There are a lot of organizations that do this, particularly the Special Olympics and of course Special Olympics is for the type of individuals we serve and they're very successful doing this type of fundraiser." She continues, "so I thought we would try it. One of my board member suggested it so were going to try it." According to May, the learning center currently has about 15 different local companies or groups that are going to be represented. "We have probably 30 to 40 individuals that are going to participate," said May. "Almost everyone of our companies that are going to participate have at least two to three people." Local groups and businesses participating include: The Jackson County Learning Center, Old Treasures, More Treasures, Arkansas Steel Associates, Lindley Health and Rehab, St. Michael's Place, M&P Insurance and Investment Services, M&P Bank, Gold Star Club, Harris Hospital, Newport High School Cheerleaders, U.S. Pizza, Newport Kiwanis Club, Newport Lion's Club, Modern Woodman of America, Bratcher Real Estate and Walmart. Here's how the event will work. Each individual who enters the event will receive a pledge form. They will then collect pledges from anyone willing to donate and take their names and information down on the pledge form. The person taking the pledges will not need to collect any money because the money pledged will be tax deductible. "We will send out a donation letter to each person that makes a pledge basically saying 'thank you for your donation and here's your tax receipt. Please send in the bottom portion with your pledge amount,'" said May. "This makes it easier for the people participating because they don't' have to collect the money and everybody (who pledges) gets a tax receipt that they can use on their taxes next year." Finally, on March 9, those taking part will meet at Jacksonport State Park and take the plunge into the White River. The learning center is asking participants to raise $100 each, but encourage them to raise as much as possible because there will be a prize for the one who raises the most. "The goal is to raise as much money as you can. Each participant that raises at least $100 will receive a free t-shirt," explained May. "The participant that raises the most money will receive a $50 Visa gift card and the group (who raises the most money) will get a trophy that they can display." May says their goal is to raise $10,000 towards their building fund with this event. "We raised $34,000 last year and our goal for this fundraiser is $10,000," May says. "We've already got the floor plan drawn up (for the new learning center building) we just need to raise the money. The estimated cost to build right now is 1.3 million." May notes that the learning center is also looking at grants to help with the build but it's difficult to find capital grants that will allow you to use the money for building. "A lot of those grants require matching funds," she explains. "Whether it be money we have already raised or pledges that we have gotten. So were trying to build our building fund up." JCLC is a private non-profit agency providing supports and services for adults who have significant developmental and intellectual disabilities. For further information, please call 870-523-1017 or 870-523-8488.