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To put quality, age-appropriate books into the hands and homes of at-risk young children before they start kindergarten so they can be ready to succeed in school and life.

Joe Dean, Founder of Jean Dean RIF Passes Away

Joseph Lowrie Dean (“ Mr. Joe”) was born October 27, 1922 in Opelika and passed away at home on February 11, 2017 after a long and happy life.   He was 94 years old.

Joe Dean was preceded in death by his parents, Sudie Robertson Dean and Augustus Baker Dean, his wife of 40 plus years, Jean Torbert Dean, and his brother, A. B. Dean, Jr.  He is survived by his son, Joseph L. Dean, Jr. and wife Kathy, his daughter Cathy Dean Gafford and husband Doug, his granddaughters Jessica Dean, Meg Gafford Beard and husband Tom, his grandson Joseph Dean III and wife Kim, and his great grandchildren Paxton Dean, Joseph Dean IV, Grady Dean and Luke Beard. 

A lifelong member of First Presbyterian Church of Opelika, Joe attended Northside Elementary when it opened.  He graduated with the first 12th grade class at Cliff High School, where he played trombone in the band and was Valedictorian of his class .  He later earned a BS in Agricultural Economics from Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now AU).  In college, he was an active ATO, continued to enjoy music and be recognized for his grades.    Having lost an eye as a child, he was not accepted for military service in World War II, but instead served his country by teaching veterans to farm.  His long business career included running the family farm at Danway and over 50 years working with his father and brother in A. B. Dean Agency, where he managed the business, was an independent insurance agent and a real estate broker for over 40 years.   The last over 20 years of his career he owned and operated Joe Dean Agency. 

Dean was active in the community, giving many hours to Scouting. He was a Life Scout himself, was recognized for his many years of leadership of a Cub Scout Pack, and was honored with a Silver Beaver Award for his lifetime activities for scouting.  He also devoted many hours to helping Girl Scouts in Opelika.

 After his children got older, he joined Kiwanis because he saw it as a valuable organization in the community.  When his beloved Jean died soon after he became the Alabama District Governor of Kiwanis, instead of withdrawing from service, he devoted his energies, talents and personal resources to helping the at-risk young children of Alabama.   During his over 40 years in Kiwanis, he served in all offices of the Opelika Kiwanis Club, Lt Governor of his Division, District Governor, District Young Child Priority One Chair and was twice honored as a Hixon Fellow. While Governor, he helped DHR to design a “Choosing Childcare  Brochure” to assist parents in making decisions about care for their children.  Hundreds of thousands of this brochure were distributed across Alabama.   He and Harvey Watson designed, produced and distributed a Kiwanis statewide directory of agencies with services for children, including ways to contact and help those agencies.  He also served for several years as the Chairman of the Board for the Alabama Council on Child Abuse.  He carried service for children one more step by starting a statewide organization in 1991 to help provide at-risk young children with books and caring adults to read those books. That organization, Jean Dean RIF (Reading is Fundamental) has been recognized nationally several times and has provided 550,000 at risk young children in Alabama with over 1.5 million books in their homes- for most, the FIRST BOOK in their homes.

Joe Dean was a faithful son, a loving and supportive husband , a  father, grandfather and great grandfather of the highest order, and friend to all in need--  be they people or animals, but most especially to children.   He dearly loved his family and Danway, the land and the animals on it, and made every effort to protect those he loved and meet their needs.  He was knowledgeable about and enjoyed hunting, reading, land, animals and their care, growing things,  music , local and family history,  Scouting and Kiwanis service.  He was a strong man with “ broad shoulders”,  a great sense of humor,   deep  inner strength all of his life and an outstanding father …  a person who has received a great deal of satisfaction knowing he has helped his fellow man and made the road he walked a better place—a true gentleman who will be  missed by all who loved  him. 

After he closed the business and retired in his early eighties, he continued to be a champion for children, speaking on their behalf and packing books for RIF distributions.  He also found great pleasure in making annual bird hunting trips to Argentina with his son Joe and David Bayne.  Always an excellent shot, he also enjoyed some bird hunting around Danway and spending time with his dogs. 


Pancake Breakfast Great success

Pancake Day open



See the Need to Read to a Child 2017 Calendar 

Join with thousands of other Alabamians to focus on books and reading during 2017 by purchasing a 2017 SEE the NEED to READ to a Child “Reading Calendar” from Jean Dean RIF (Reading Is Fundamental)/Kiwanis.

 It is the ideal way to help buy books for at-risk young children across Alabama and take care of some of your early “holiday shopping”. The calendars are priced at $12 to match the cost per child for Jean Dean RIF, a grassroots program which manages to provide 3 quality, age-appropriate books each to over 20,000 at risk young children across the state every year. 2016 was the 25th year for the program to put books into the hands and homes of our poorest children. The first “Reading Calendar”, the 15-16 school year “Get Caught Reading to a Child” calendar will end just in time for this new 2017 “SEE the NEED to READ to a Child Reading Calendar” to spread across the state. Over 2000 “Reading calendars” were sold last year. Calendar sales continue to further the program mission: to provide books and volunteers to read them to help prepare at-risk young children to be READY for kindergarten and have hope of doing well in school and life. For most of the kids given Jean Dean RIF books , these are the FIRST books in their homes, making family literacy POSSIBLE for the first time. Vocabulary is built from listening to the stories, parents have the opportunity to develop closer family relationships while reading, and children see their parents and other adults they love with books in their hands. Reading takes on a whole new context for them. The key to unlock education begins to turn- in their homes, then at school.

Press Release

See the Need Calendar 2017

JeanDean RIF 2016 Scholarship  



A new scholarship was started in 2016 in honor of the 25th Anniversary of Kiwanis service
 to children through Jean Dean RIF (Reading Is Fundamental),
the signature service project of the Alabama Kiwanis Foundation.
Because the quality of the applicants was so high, two scholarships will be awarded in 2016. 

Jean Dean RIF
Scholarship Winner

Javier Figueroa
Jean Dean RIF
Scholarship Winne
Avery McNeill
 Graduating #1 in his class at Holly Pond High School, Javier Figueroa started his formal education in preschool at Cullman City Head Start. 
       An active member of the Holly Pond Key Club, Javier was also a member of SGA, Future Business Leaders of America, Beta Club, Math Team, school journalism activities and Scholars Bowl. He was the Holly Pond Representative to Youth Leadership Cullman County, Boy’s State and the Youth Leadership Development Program.
    Javier will be attending the University of Alabama in
    How did getting Kiwanis RIF books at home help him or his family? “As the 4th child of a Mexican family, I rarely received anything new. Receiving brand new books in Head Start was one of the best feelings I had felt when I was young. I was overjoyed and I would read my books a lot, oftentimes to my family. Not only did my books help me read English, they helped my parents start on their journey of learning to speak English. The new books I received helped me discover my love for reading and even school. (These) books have helped me want to pursue an education after high school, unlike the rest of my family.” 
Graduating #1 in his class at Florala High School, Avery McNeill started his formal education in preschool at Florala Head Start. 
        An active member of the Florala Key Club, Avery was also Student Government President, was a member of Peer Helpers, Beta Club and the Fellowship of Christian Students and played high school football, basketball and baseball. He also served as a Cancer Freeze Volunteer, Christian Service Center Volunteer and Camp Victory Volunteer.
    Avery will be attending the University of South Alabama concentrating on a math or science curriculum.
    How did getting Kiwanis RIF books at home help him or his family? “By giving (me) the key to learning. Having books in your own hands at an early age is a huge advantage to beginning an education.”