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Rucker foundation refocusing on youth
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Beulah Rucker always strove to, in her words, "light a torch of instruction" for Hall County’s youth.

Now the foundation that takes her name looks to further that mission as it refocuses its efforts to reach young people.

Gainesville attorney Ashley Bell and City Councilwoman Myrtle Figueras received the Beulah Rucker Educational Foundation and Museum’s outstanding volunteer award Saturday at its annual meeting, for their work with "Generation Inspiration," a nine-week youth leadership program aimed ages 14 to 18.

For the first year since Generation Inspiration’s inception in 2004, the program was held at the foundation’s historic site on Athens Highway, the former residence of Rucker, who founded a high school for African-American students in 1911. It served not only to further the mission of the foundation, but provide new exposure for the museum, Bell said.

"It was a good fit," Bell said. "They are an established non-profit organization, and we wanted the kids to see this location. Every kid that came here the first day said they didn’t know this place was here. There’s a whole new generation of Gainesville people who can see this site and hear the stories."

The Beulah Rucker Foundation has gone through changes since its reorganization in recent years. A formal deeding of the 2.5-acre property from the Beulah Rucker Oliver family to the foundation is near completion, foundation chairwoman Ruth Bruner announced Saturday. Long-range plans call for rebuilding a gymnasium that once hosted wrestling matches and erecting an amphitheater. On the short-term wish list is a parking lot.

And the foundation’s purpose is moving from not just promoting local African-American heritage, but education for all races and walks of life, Bruner said.

"We decided to go back to the root of what Miss Beulah Rucker Oliver was all about," Bruner said. "We have started looking at gearing ourselves more toward youth activities."

Rojene Bailey, the volunteer executive director of the museum and a direct descendant of Rucker, said it took some time during the re-organization to determine where the foundation stood.

"We had a lot of things to straighten up," Bailey said. "But we know exactly where we are now, and we are moving forward. And trust me, there’s no stopping us now."

Attracting more donations and volunteers is critical to the foundation’s success, Bruner told Saturday’s breakfast gathering.

"We’ve got grand plans and dreams, but the only way we can make these come true is for you to be involved and for you to help us get these things done."

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