Lillie Johnson makes a difference
Published 11:14 am Monday, October 13, 2003
By By Suzanne Digmon Special to the Advance
Lillie Johnson, director and co-creator of the Atmore Family Life Center, is staying busy this week as the center kicks off its third year. Located at 100 Martin Luther King Ave., the AFLC has breathed new life to the old middle school building. Johnson and her sister, Yvonne Grissett, saw the condition of the empty facility worsening and started coming up with ideas for the neglected school. From their brainstorming, the Atmore Family Life Center was born. Johnson went to the Board of Education and asked for the building, and Superintendent Buck Powell gave her the green light. "My sister and I took it from there and made it what it is," Johnson said Wednesday.
The two began cleaning and fixing up the building, but were discouraged when it was burglarized and all their work was undone just weeks before the scheduled opening of the center in 2000.
"I just can't do it," Johnson said,when she looked with defeat at the ankle-deep water. The sisters "called in everybody" to help, including Don Whatley, Glen Carlee, Howard Shell and many others. Paint was donated by Swift Lumber, Jerry's Hardware and Bondurant True Value Hardware. Harold Allen, Joey's Furniture, W. G. Johnson, Carolyn Montgomery, Letha Walker, the Escambia County Sheriff's Department, the county commission, Pepsi and Eddie Tullis helped furnish the building.
City Councilman John Garrard is also one of the center's biggest supporters; Johnson and Grissett have nicknamed him "Santa Claus." Mt. Gilliard Baptist Church and First Assembly of God Church are also supporters of AFLC.
Now, as enrollment increases daily and new programs are added, Johnson's vision has become real. After finishing her eight-hour shift at Masland, where she has worked for 30 years, Johnson comes to the AFLC and volunteers her evenings. The center has several partners, including Greater Mt. Triumph Church, Poarch Creek Indians, Escambia County Board of Education and the newly added Kid's Caf