William “Jae” Allison, founder of the Givin’ Back program, which has helped dozens of kids improve their athletic skills, as well as become better people, is looking for a permanent home for his program and is hoping those in the community can help.
Allison started the program in Russellville in 2005, which now has 120 kids enrolled. He says he began helping kids because he felt God had shown him this was what he was supposed to do with his life. Allison, who grew up in Logan County, headed to the streets of Atlanta after high school where he lost his son to a bullet and was shot himself, almost dying as well. “God saved me for a reason,” said Allison, who is now middle aged and knew when he survived he needed to come back home. “When I moved back here I found my purpose, which is to help the youth of today, through my experiences, and to teach them they can be better than the streets.”
The Givin’ Back program started out with 12 kids and has grown to an unbelievable amount says Allison. At first the program, which provides basketball as one of its ways to teach the kids, was held a few months out of the year. Now, because kids are asking for more, Allison has opened the program up year round every Saturday from 8 a.m.-12 p.m. It takes a lot of volunteers to help make the program a success and Allison said he is always looking for more people to help out.
The program began at Hampton Park in Russellville, but now meets at the Russellville High School gymnasium.
“I can’t say enough about Russellville Superintendent Leon Smith,” said Allison. “He is always willing to help the kids in anyway he can.”
It seemed like a dream come true for Allison and the Givin’ Back program when they were allowed to use a building in Russellville that was once occupied by the American Red Cross. He said he was so excited to finally have a place of operation where kids could come and learn more than a sport, but music, dance, and receive help with school. A place where kids felt safe.
The group was only in their new home for a year, when lightening struck the building and burned it to the ground. It was devastating for Allison and the kids. “We lost everything,” said Allison.
Allison is now back out in the community trying to locate another place he and the kids can call home. Because the program makes no money and is a volunteer endeavor, there are no funds to pay for rent. Allison hopes to apply for grants soon to open up much needed funding for the program.
In the years he has been running the program, Allison said he has seen it make a difference in several young lives. “Discipline starts at home, but we try to do what we can,” Allison said. “We’ve had some kids come in that didn’t have it and when they left, they were answering ‘Yes sir’ and ‘No sir.’”
If you are interested in helping the Givin’ Back program find a home please contact Allison at 270-893-5884.