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Dedication built EA gym

By By Jane Corman
Guest columnist
Over the past six months I have witnessed an amazing process that I would like the community to be aware of.
Last spring the Board of Directors of Escambia Academy found itself facing a demanding need. That need was to replace the school's old third-hand, 30-year-old gym with a facility more comparable to today's standards for both our athletes and our supporters. Plans were made to move forward even in the face of those who predicted it couldn't be done, at least not at this time.
There was a firm commitment to only spend what could be raised and not to incur any debt for the school with the project. No large contributions were received from outside the community, making the businesses and individuals within the community who stepped up to assist financially particularly appreciated. Significant dollars were raised. However, as the project moved along, the bottom line was the funds secured were not close to the cost estimates.
So how did the beautiful new facility come about? By the hundreds of hours of donated labor and in-kind services and materials brought to bear on the project.
Four men n Chet Helton, Phillip Martin, Tommy Young and Joe Hardy n all with full-time, demanding careers, gave leadership to the project from planning to completion. For months these men worked full-day jobs only to come directly to the school and begin another shift, working often late into the night. They gathered materials, worked with subcontractors, marshalled volunteers and taught the rest of us what to do and how to do it.
Students and parents alike came from " the red dirt stage" when it was 95 degrees to dig footings all the way through hanging plywood, sanding, painting, laying tile and the list could go on and on. Saturdays for months meant donning old clothes and heading off to the gym to offer whatever one could to the project.
When other kids were sleeping in or heading off to the mall, EA students were working alongside adults to help get the job done. One student summed it up well when he said, "when you've worked so hard to have something like this gym, you appreciate it more than if it were just given to you, and you really want to take care of it." (Could there be a life lesson here?) I doubt that there's any school in America that appreciates a facility any more than EA does.
The money had to go a long way and the EA family stepped up and met the challenge. My most heartfelt gratitude goes out to those men who gave leadership, to the donors, to the parents, grandparents, alumni, students, coaches and friends who made this dream a reality.
Now EA finally has a facility to complement its basketball program.