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Jackson EMC, customers give to five Hall charities
Occupational therapist Lisa Lake helps Matthew Baker on the log swing Monday afternoon in the therapy treatment gym at Challenged Child and Friends. The agency received $15,000 recently from Jackson EMC and plans to use the money to provide scholarships to low-income children with disabilities.

Customers with the Jackson Electric Membership Corp. are doing a lot to help Hall County.

Thanks to customer donations, five Hall County agencies have received more than $50,000 in grant funds to provide services to local clients.

The grants were awarded by the Jackson EMC Foundation and were made possible by the corporation’s Operation Round Up program, in which customers are able to round their electricity bills up to the next dollar amount and donate the change to charities.

One of the local organizations, Challenged Child and Friends, has already earmarked how it will use the $15,000 it received.

"We are planning to provide scholarships for children with special needs," said Judith Brauer, who is the organization’s grant writer. "This year, we have had a record number of enrollments and with the current economy, in order for us to continue offering scholarships we need more funds.

"All of our services are based on a sliding scale, but we offer our services to families regardless of their ability to pay. Typically a week of therapy costs between $75 to $100 and Medicaid will pay some of that, but a lot of children on the Autism Spectrum require more intensive therapy than what many insurances will approve paying for. "

Challenged Child and Friends is a Gainesville based nonprofit organization that has been providing educational, therapeutic, counseling and nursing services to children with disabilities for the past 23 years. The children who are serviced by the organization have a wide range of special needs varying from attention deficit disorder, to spina bifida to autism.

"Reflecting national trends, we have seen a significant rise among children on the Autism Spectrum," Brauer said. "Continued population growth, better physician awareness and earlier diagnoses are driving the increasing demand for our specialized services."

The organization works primarily with children who are between 6 weeks and 6 years old.

"For children with disabilities, research shows that early intervention has the potential to greatly improve quality of life," Brauer said. "By reaching children during the critical developmental years, our services help them reach their full potential in school and life."

Health Access Initiative Inc., another Hall County nonprofit agency, also received $15,000 from the Jackson EMC Foundation.

"We help uninsured adults in Hall County get access to health care. If they are seen at the (health department) or the Good News Clinic and need to see a specialist, they are referred to us and we refer them to a specialist," said Kim Smith, the organization’s executive director. "We have a network of more than 100 volunteer physicians and an agreement with the Northeast Georgia Medical Center that helps us provide comprehensive health care for our clients."

The money that the organization received will be used to pay for a case manager who will help process referrals, enroll clients and coordinate physician appointments.

Other Hall County organizations that received grants from the Jackson EMC Foundation include The Children’s Center for Hope and Healing, The March of Dimes of North Georgia Division and The South Hall Community Food Pantry.