Company donates $1 million to help Dixie County youth

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DIXIE COUNTY, Fla. (WCJB)-- Suwannee Lumber Company donated $1 million to Dixie County youth programs.

The money will split between four programs: Dixie County’s Education Foundation, AVID program, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and an Anti-Drug Coalition will have the money distributed to them for over five years.

The donation was made in hopes of expanding educational opportunities and mitigating the impact of the opioid epidemic.

Dixie County’s Anti-Drug Coalition Executive Director Katrina VanAernam said the funds will be beneficial for the recovery-oriented system of care.

“Because we’re in a small rural community, funds are limited,” VanAernam said. "Often times when the funds end with the grant—the work ends. But these funds are going to help us continue the work that we’ve been working towards for eight years.”

Retired educator for Dixie County Schools Kathryn McInnis is happy that the Dixie County Education Foundation if one of the programs that will be receiving the donation.

“This is so exciting for us because now we can do things we’ve never dreamed that we can possibly do,” McInnis said. “The focus of our project is to build a framework from which we can assist students to be better prepared for and complete certifications in the career technical fields. The building of a skilled, more local workforce is a key to the future of Dixie County and Dixie County youth."

Two seniors attending Dixie County High School appreciated the donation to the AVID program which stands for District’s Advancement Via Individual Determination. The program helps AVID instructors plan to purchase educational supplies, test prep materials, fund student trips to technical schools and colleges.

Dixie County High School senior Idalis Vasquez said the program helped her grow in life.

“For myself, it has helped me academically as well as in etiquette and how to carry yourself professionally and it has taught me to be an outgoing person,” Vasquez said. "If you would’ve met me a couple of years ago, I would’ve been very shy and now it has brought us to open doors and many other opportunities.”

Dixie County High School senior William Gonzalez appreciates the donation to the AVID program.

“The AVID program was more than just a program to help me for college,” Gonzalez said. “It helps you become successful and just be determined in your life, not only for school just for anything around you.”

Dixie County High School principal Paul Bennett looks forward to benefits the donation will provide for the program.

“It’s going to give us a lot of resources,” Bennett said. “It’s going to give us a lot of opportunities for kids to be more college ready. That’s what the program is all about.”

Bennett is thankful for the donation.

“We appreciate the generosity,” Bennett said. “Investing in our students in our little area that doesn’t have a big tax base, we’re able to do things that other counties do as well.”

Suwannee Lumber Company Chairman Frank “Bump” Faircloth enjoys giving back to the county.

“Dixie County stood out to us because we had businesses here going all the way back to 1954 and it was our way of saying we wanted to honor the people here,” Faircloth said. “We are honored to make this contribution and look forward to good results going forward.”

Each recipient made their presentation on behalf of their program after receiving the donation.