By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
American Legion Post 90 members, recent recipients of a $50,000 T-Mobile Hometown Grant for the post’s recently completed water garden, formally accepted the windfall during a December 20 “potluck” luncheon gathering.
But before accepting the check from a handful of T-Mobile representatives, local Legionnaires paid tribute to the people who worked behind the scenes to make the water-pollination garden a reality.
Post Commander Dave Graham and Post Adjutant Paul Chason handed out framed plaques of appreciation to Harold and Beverly Madison for their care of the post’s flags; Terrence Breckinridge, who oversaw the water garden project and was named Volunteer of the Year; William Smith, who helped design and install the water garden’s flora; and Dale Ash, who was cited for her successful grant applications on behalf of the local veterans group.
“Harold and Beverly Madison monitor all the emails, as far as when flags need to come to half-staff and how long, when they need to go back up, and when they need to be replaced,” Graham said. “They just do that on their own.”
Beverly Madison was given a tad of extra appreciation, as her plaque included one of the grommets from a flag recently retired.
Ash was next to be honored. Graham said her work was probably the key to successful construction of the Legion post’s flower-filled greenspace.
“Not to take anything away from anybody else, but if it wasn’t for Dale writing those grants and working with Paul to make sure they’re done right, that the information is out there, (the garden) would not have happened nearly to the scale it has,” the post commander said.
Chason joked that William Smith listened intently to any suggestion he, Chason or other members offered, then pretty much waved them off.
“William was our contractor, so to speak, and our landscaper,” he said. “He donated his time to make sure we got it right, and that’s not the only time he donated his time. He very professionally listened to mine and Dave’s suggestions, then explained to us why it should be done a different way.”
Breckenridge was cited as the “driving force” behind the garden’s completion.
“Terrence is our volunteer of the year for project management and technical guidance with everything associated with the water garden,” Chason said. “He was always a driving force; he was a mentor and a motivator. In him, we have someone who took the time to make it happen and to come together flawlessly.”
Certificates were also presented to Tim Albritton, Olan Albritton, Drew Albritton, and Ben Tingle. The foursome was responsible for construction of the garden’s covered pavilion.
Just before presentation of those awards, the post commander had surprised the adjutant.
“This is unscheduled because I wanted it to be a little bit of a surprise,” Graham said as he presented Chason with a framed and signed inspirational and patriotic acrylic painting by Linda M. Henson. “Paul has undying dedication to what we’re doing here, with the Cheaha project and water garden, and trying to make Atmore a more desirable place to be.”
Graham also pointed out that although Chason committed himself to put in 25 volunteer hours per month, the adjutant’s time “has turned into a whole lot more than that.”
Chason, who was the program’s emcee, was visibly caught off guard.
“Wow, that will be a hard act to follow” he exclaimed. “I was not expecting that.”
Acceptance of the actual grant money followed the recognition of the local Post 90 supporters.
“I couldn’t be more ecstatic to be here today, talking about our Hometown Grant program,” said John Adams, T-Mobile’s Market Manager for Alabama, who mistakenly referred to the Legion post as a Veterans of Foreign Wars outfit. “My apologies, but we are excited to give $50,000 to the completion of the pollinator garden program. This shows our company’s commitment to rural America.”
The three dozen or so people in attendance included State Rep. Alan Baker, District 34 Commander Larry Meeks and his wife, who traveled from Andalusia, Mayor Jim Staff and Mayor Pro Tem Shawn Lassiter.
After the presentations, the group retired to the kitchen to fill plates with a feast that included turkey, fried fish, boiled shrimp, dressing, mashed potatoes, vegetables and desserts.
The meal’s components were prepared by post members (or their wives), and the “primary kitchen organizers” were Maggie Graham, Denise Chason and Beverly Madison.