Alabama RC&D Promotes Literacy with SHORT the Squirrel


The State’s Literacy Mascot Met with Members of the Alabama Legislature to Promote the Importance of Reading in Building a Better Future

SHORT the Squirrel, Alabama’s charismatic literacy mascot, embarked on a special trip to Montgomery to highlight the importance of literacy and education across the state. During the visit, which was made possible through its partnership with the Alabama Association of Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Program and the Alabama Farmers Agricultural Foundation, SHORT advocated for support of educational programming to further its mission of spreading literacy-rich, community-oriented, enjoyable content to Alabama’s youngest citizens. 

During the visit, SHORT interacted with members of the legislature and government officials to promote the critical role literacy plays in shaping the future of the state. The mascot’s vibrant personality and commitment to fostering a love for reading left a lasting impression, emphasizing the significance of investing in educational initiatives. 

“It’s encouraging to see organizations like SHORT the Squirrel actively engaging in promoting literacy and education. It’s a reminder that by working together, we can create a more informed community, laying the foundation for a prosperous future in Alabama,” said Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Rick Pate.  

SHORT the Squirrel is a nonprofit reading organization that is committed to creating vibrant, engaging narratives that not only entertain but also foster a sense of curiosity and joy, while encouraging a love for reading in Alabama’s youngest citizens. The charming character has become synonymous with the organization’s efforts to make reading and learning enjoyable for all and regularly makes appearances at schools across the state. SHORT was founded in 2020, and since then, has released fourteen grant-funded titles and activity booklets that are available to children and schools throughout the state and beyond. 

SHORT the Squirrel’s appearance at the State House provided an opportunity for legislators to learn more about the organization’s ongoing projects and initiatives aimed at enhancing literacy levels in Alabama. This includes the launch of its upcoming virtual birthday party and corresponding curriculum, which teachers across the state can access and receive for free to use as a supplement to their existing lesson plans as long as they are registered in advance. Developed in partnership with Alabama Association of Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Program and the Alabama Farmers Agricultural Foundation, SHORT’S fourth birthday party takes place in Dothan and highlights the rich agricultural bounty of the state in a fun and interactive way. 

“We are thrilled to collaborate with SHORT the Squirrel in our ongoing efforts to make Alabama a better place to live, work and play,” said  Nick Williams, chairman of the  Alabama Association of Resource,  Conservation, and Development Councils. “Our partnership exemplifies our shared values and determination to create a more empowered society while highlighting all the wonderful things Alabama has to offer.” 

As Alabama continues to prioritize education and literacy, the presence of SHORT the Squirrel at the State House serves as a symbol of unity between families, educators and the community in the pursuit of a brighter, more educated future for young Alabamians.


SHORT the Squirrel is a nonprofit reading initiative founded in 2020 by college friends Monica Anderson Young and Dr. Dee Dupree Bennett with the mission of cultivating a love for reading and igniting the imaginations of Alabama’s youngest citizens through literacy-rich, community-oriented, and enjoyable content. The “Official Mascot for Childhood Literacy in Alabama,” SHORT is a curious squirrel who, alongside his friend “Owl-Livia,” helps children explore their surroundings and enjoy reading while on the go. SHORT is committed to creating vibrant, engaging narratives that not only entertain but also foster a sense of community, curiosity, and joy. Through interactive  tales demystifying new experiences and community partnerships, SHORT the Squirrel aims to contribute to the development of young minds, nurturing a lifelong passion for knowledge and a deep connection to the world around them. For more information, please visit Press kit linked here. 

Alabama RC&D Announces 2023 Legislator of the Year Award

State Senator Garlan Gudger, R- Cullman and State Representative Wes Kitchens have been recognized as 2023 Alabama RC&D Senate and House Leaders of the Year by the Alabama Association of Resource, Conservation and Development (AARCD) Councils during the Alabama Mountains Rivers and Valley (AMRV) RC&D Annual meeting held at Guntersville State Park. 

L-R: Representative Wes Kitchesn and Senator Garlan Gudger

The award is given each year for showing leadership and dedication to the advancement of conservation and natural resources while promoting economic and community development growth in Alabama. 

Senator Gudger serves as Chairman of the Economic Development and Fiscal Responsibility Committee and sits on the Finance and Taxation and Education Committee, which is responsible for appropriating funding for educational services and programs in the State of Alabama. He plays an important role in prioritizing spending.

Senator Gudger accepted the award on behalf of his Alabama Senate colleagues and recognized AARCD for its outreach efforts across the State of Alabama and the tremendous impact it has on improving overall quality of life.

“I’m honored to be able to receive this award on behalf of my colleagues because we all need to share in this success,” said Gudger, “We cannot do this without teamwork and I’m thankful to be on your team.” 

Representative Kitchens serves as the Vice Chair of the Republican Caucus and sits on the Ways and Means General Fund, which is responsible for appropriating funding for general services and programs in the State of Alabama. He plays an important role in prioritizing spending.

Representative Kitchens thanked RC&D for the award and stated that the organization provides a valuable service to the State of Alabama and provides impactful outcomes. 

“I’m fortunate enough to sit on the General Fund budget committee and this organization is always at the front of our minds when we’re getting to budget time because of the work you do,” said Kitchens.

AARCD Executive Director Katie Conner thanked Senator Gudger and Rep. Kitchens for their friendship and continued investment into the RC&D program which has made Alabama a national leader.

“Alabama RC&D is extremely blessed and have been put into a position where we are leading RC&D nationally,” said Conner, “Other states recognize that the relationship between RC&D and the Alabama Legislature is special.” 

The RC&D program was established by the Agriculture Act of 1962 to provide a program that empowers rural people to help themselves. RC&D areas include adjacent counties that have substantial natural resources to use for economic improvement and community betterment. 

There are nine RC&D councils throughout the state. RC&D Councils in Alabama are non-profit, tax-exempt organizations within the state that are designated 501(c) (3) entities by the Internal Revenue Service. 

RC&D Councils are made up of citizens in an RC&D area who want a better life for themselves, their children, and future generations. RC&D Council representatives and alternates are volunteers who assist RC&D.

Alabama Association of RC&D Councils Sponsors Blackbelt Benefit Group’s Tornado Benefit Concert

The Alabama Association of RC&D Councils, Alabama RC&D, continues to work to promote the social and economic benefits for Alabamaians by sponsoring the 2023 Rockin’ Rib-off and Rick Carter Songwriter Festival on Saturday, June 3, 2023 in Selma.

This fundraiser, hosted by the Black Belt Benefit Group, featured an exceptional line up of musicians, delicious ribs and a wide-range of family-friendly activities. By participating in the event, attendees were able raise money and help with the long-term tornado recovery efforts in Selma and the surrouding area after the devastating tornado hit West Alabama on January 12.

“We are grateful to the Alabama Association of RC&D Councils for their generous sponsorship grant,” said Josh Wilkerson, President of Blackbelt Benefit Group. “Their support will have a significant impact on our ability to provide assistance to the residents of Selma as they recover from the tornado’s destruction. This partnership further strengthens our commitment to the community and ensures that our fundraising efforts will make a lasting difference.”

Alabama RC&D Executive Director Katie Conner said that they are honored to be a part of something that supports the recovery of Selma and brings Selma together as a community.

“Alabama RC&D is thankful for groups like Blackbelt Benefit for putting these events on the ground,” Conner said. “After a devastating tornado, it’s important for a community and its citizens to come together to lift community spirits and help those in need. An effort like this captures the spirit of RC&D and we are grateful to play a part.”

Alabama RC&D staff, Katie Conner, Communciations Specialist, Mary Kendall Dixon, attended the event along with Ala-Tom RC&D Council, Executive Director, Marie Lowder and Ala-Tom Council members from Dallas County, Kathy Traylor and Charlie Kee, and Alabama RC&D Program Developer, Noopie Cosby.