Thoughts from Executive Director Kari Collins…

I first came to Red Bird in ‘77.   My husband Taylor Collins (Class of ‘66) and I lived behind the church at Beverly in a trailer for several years before we moved into Queendale housing. He was the principal and my service began as a volunteer in the 1st and 2nd grade.  After the school burned down in ‘81, the summer was spent transforming the work camp area at Queendale. We opened the cabins and pulled in some temporary trailers to serve as classrooms so we could keep providing the children with a quality education as God had intended. Two years later, with His many blessings and overwhelming support from alumni and friends, we moved into the new school.  Taylor and I physically left Red Bird in 1987, but it always remained in our hearts.  In 1988 the Board voted to become a private school, which meant that the public education dollars for text books and supplies, teacher positions, and transportation costs were no longer made available to support what we had known as the Settlement School. When Taylor came back to serve as executive director of the Mission (and school) and Clinic in 2010 we also felt what many returning alumni have expressed, a  dismay that the original Beverly campus was not what it had once been. It saddened us too.  We had so many wonderful memories created in those spaces. Taylor’s focus was not only on keeping the school open, but also ensuring a quality education for every student. After Taylor passed in 2015 I was offered the opportunity to serve as executive director and carry forward two visions. The Board’s vision of a healthy, sustainable community along with Taylor’s vision of the School becoming recognized as the best educational institute in Kentucky.  Taylor also set forth the challenge of endowing the School so that it never again faced closure because of financial reasons. Today, we are working very hard with the neighbors, alumni, funders and other supporters to make both of those visions a reality. An example of strengthening our community is seen in our recent partnership with an internet provider who submitted and received a USDA grant to set up a community center with high speed internet access in Beverly.  We will be hosting the site. They are to also provide low cost internet service to the homes.  We are very hopeful that it is a first step to revitalizing the community and increasing our presence once again at Red Bird School’s “homeplace” of Beverly.  We are searching for grant opportunities, donors and volunteers to renovate and restore the “teacherage” to possibly be used as a bed and breakfast and/or a meeting center as one of our small, but significant  steps of economic development for the people in this beloved community.  Much has changed when you come visit us at Red Bird, but our purpose and God’s presence remains.  With Taylor’s vision of the school ever present I am committed to not only saving the school, but sustaining it for the generations of children yet to come. When I walk through the hallways of the school today I experience the exact same emotions I carried with me in the 1970s and 80s- we have dedicated, talented teachers engaging the students every minute of the day; polite, caring students who are growing both spiritually and academically; you feel their spirit of pride and their connection to our School – Red Bird.  I struggle to get the important message out to all of our alumni and friends. We are in need of your ongoing prayers, and we are in critical need of your financial support. Because we continue to be in the poorest counties of Kentucky, as well as in the nation, we have maintained a $610.00 per year maximum tuition cost. Many families pay less.  That leaves us with a tuition gap of at least $6500.00 a year per child that we must raise from charitable donations.  While we continually  seek support for the day to day operations of the School, we are also seeking ways to raise that $21 million dollar endowment that will ensure the school will be here to serve the children in these mountains for generations to come. I know that seems overwhelming. Believe me when I say that there are days that my faith is weakened.  But then the unexpected donation comes in the mail,  a new volunteer applies to fill a specific need, or an alum contacts us to share their story about Red Bird. They tell us about the importance this place has had in their life, along with the memories they carry in their heart.  They want to pay it forward so other children may have the same opportunities. Every blessing, large or small, reminds me that God has been faithful to us and kept us going for nearly 100 years. Each of you have been part of the Red Bird story.  If you haven’t visited us in awhile, please come and I’d be happy to take you around and reintroduce you to all the work that is going on here. Walk through the halls of the School and meet the students who, like you, are creating their own memories and experiencing their love of the place and the people they call their Red Bird family. 

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