By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
After a relatively lengthy quiet period, officials of Billy Glenn Rushing American Legion Post 90 in Atmore are starting to make some noise, noise that will help enhance not only the post’s reputation, but the community in which it is located.
Having already gleaned attention across the state and in places as far away as Iowa and South Dakota with the award-winning Old Glory Lookout flag-disposal project at Cheaha Park, the local veterans’ organization is now turning its attention more toward home.
On tap are several projects, including one to create a new downtown greenspace and one to increase the number of local students who participate in the Boys State and Girls State governmental education programs.
Post 90 Commander Dave Graham announced that the local veterans group hope to create a space on post grounds that will augment the other such outdoor venues that have recently become part of the city’s downtown.
“We hope to break ground on our butterfly and water garden project that we’re going to have going here at the post,” Graham said. “We’ll have a pavilion that will used for the community farmers market during summer. When it’s not being used for the farmers market, people can have picnics underneath it. We’ll have benches, blueberry plants and flowers. We’re hoping it’s going be a good educational piece for students.”
He added that plans include using “nuisance water” to help keep the greenspace green.
“It will be designed to channel water that gets built up in the intersection (of Main and Church streets) during heavy rains into the water garden,” Graham explained.
Post Adjutant Paul Chason said initial cost estimates have long been cast aside, due to the constantly rising price of building materials that has evolved from the COVID pandemic.
“It’s going to take about $126,000 t0 $127,000 total,” Chason said. “That’s a ballpark figure, and materials costs are going up every day, but I think we can bring it in. When we started the process, we thought $100,000 would do it, but as an example, we have to go to Jacksonville (Fla.) for the pavers, and we found out that the transportation cost is estimated at $10,000 just to get the pavers here. That’s the kind of thing we’ve run into.”
If the costs don’t increase much more, he said, the post now has enough money to complete the project.
“Over the course of the last 18-24 months, we’ve received approximately $127,000 for the water garden, plus or minus a little bit,” Chason said, adding that the funds have come from several and varied sources. “Our long-term goal is to create a greenspace like the one over at First National Bank & Trust. Then we’ll have a greenspace here that can be part of a walking trail or part of a downtown tour.”
He said local Legionnaires have received private donations, as well as donations and grants from Poarch Band of Creek Indians Tribal Council, Escambia County Soil & Water Conservation District, United Fund, United Bank, State of Alabama, Gulf Winds Credit Union, Alabama Farmers Federation, Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, and the regional Resource Conservation and Development Council.
Post 90 is also looking to increase the number of local high school juniors who represent the community at Boys State and Girls State, two of the most respected educational programs of governmental instruction for U.S. high school juniors.
The post and its auxiliary already sponsor students from Escambia County High School, Escambia Academy and Flomaton High School and plans to expand that this year to include one school that has been overlooked in the past.
“This year we’re going to increase our support for kids by hopefully 35 percent,” said Chason. “And, for the first time, we’re going to try and include Atmore Christian School. We’re reaching out to see if they want to participate. We hope to be able to send eight kids instead of six.”
He pointed out that Sondra McKinley, president of the Post 90 Auxiliary, is also hoping to increase the number of Girls State attendees, which would bring the total representation to 12 students.
Post 90 is also working on several other projects, including establishment of a Facebook page to increase its visibility, as well as repairing its headquarters building from damage sustained by a car hitting one wall and from Hurricane Sally.
“We’re trying to grow, trying to get new members,” said the post adjutant. “If we can do that, it will be a win for the American Legion, a win for the community, a win for everybody.”
Any veterans wishing to join the local post can do so by contacting Graham or Chason at firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyone wishing to make a financial donation to any of the ongoing projects may do so by mailing a check or money order to Billy Glenn Rushing American Legion Post 90, P.O. 407, Atmore AL 36504.