Early Christmas

Published 1:55 pm Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians Tribal Council doled out more than $1.6 million in donations to area schools as well as the United Fund on Wednesday morning at Escambia County High School.|Photo by Adam Prestridge

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians presented Atmore area schools with early Christmas presents Wednesday morning by way of sizeable monetary donations to help offset education funding cutbacks by the state.

The Tribe donated more than $1.6 million to the five area public schools and two private schools in the library of Escambia County High School. The funding, which was made available through the Tribe’s education endowment, is to be used for “needed” resources at each school ranging from educational materials and supplies to facility improvements.

Tribal Chairman Buford L. Rolin said the donations are simply an example of the Tribe being good stewards.

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“Part of being a good neighbor is helping out others in need,” he said. “Education is the bedrock of productive successful lives for these youngsters, we are happy and proud to be able to make this contribution to the future today.”

In total, the Tribe donated $1,626,407. Donations are as follows: Escambia County High School and Escambia County Middle School received a combined total of $687,360, the largest donation made by the Tribe. Huxford Elementary School was presented with $337,000; A.C. Moore Elementary School with $112,547 and Rachel Patterson Elementary School received $78,000. Escambia Academy was given $311,500 and Atmore Christian School received $100,000.

Rachel Patterson Principal Susan McKenzie was the first to receive her school’s check and it literally brought tears to her eyes.

“I did not know how much we were getting, I think some of the other principals probably knew, so when they turned that check around, I was speechless, I was absolutely speechless,” McKenzie said. “I am very, very humbled and we will use that money very wisely for our students.”

Atmore Christian School Principal Tim Battles received his schools six-figure check next, which he said would be used to help offset costs for the schools new multi-purpose building consisting of junior and high school classes and a gymnasium.

“It’s a huge blessing,” he said. “We are in a building project and this is going mostly to that. During a building project, you know you have enough to get this phase finished and know that you’ve got to get funds to do the next phase. God just provided a huge way that is going to get us definitely into another phase. We are grateful.”

David Nolin, principal at A.C. Moore Elementary, was all smiles as he accepted his school’s check following Battles.

“I’m so excited I can’t stand it,” Nolin said. “With proration and other cuts, education has really been tough trying to get things done, especially having supplies for teachers in the classrooms. It’s hard to cut when you know the good of the things you are cutting, so this is going to really help us to supply the needed things to take us a step further in our education process this year.”

Nolin said the money would be used for various needs the school has including technology upgrade such as smart board converters for the school’s white boards and LCD projectors, furniture, teacher supplies and library books.

An enthusiastic Betty Warren, headmaster at Escambia Academy, quickly rushed to accept her school’s check as she gave Rolin a bear hug.

“It’s unreal,” Warren said. “It’s so unexpected, we had no idea it was coming until they contacted us. Then whenever I went out and met with them, I still had no idea that it would be this sum. I just can’t say enough of how much we appreciate this.”

Warren said one of the top priorities planned for the money is dual enrollment, along with improvements to the elementary school.

Carol Middleton was presented Huxford’s check next stating the funds are an “early Christmas present” for the rural school.

“It’s wonderful,” Middleton said. “We are maxed out, we don’t have any more classrooms. It’s an early Christmas present.”

She said the school presented needs ranching from a new multi-purpose building to a carpet extractor.

Lastly, ECHS principal Zickeyous Byrd and ECMS principal Linda Shuford were presented with a more than half a million dollar check for use at both schools. Byrd said the donation was staggering.

“I am absolutely amazed and so thankful that they thought of us,” he said. “Basically what we put into this was replacing what the state cut.”

Plans for the money include $500 per teacher at both schools, 80 teachers total, for supplies; dual enrollment; funding for a second resource officer; renovations; technology enhancements and help with athletic program to offer sports like golf and tennis and improve track and field.

In addition to their donations to area schools, the Tribe also presented Atmore United Fund President Bernard Bishop with a check for $10,000, which represents 20 percent of the 2011 campaign budget of $50,000.

“Enhancing the way of life in our community has always been a priority for the Tribe,” Rolin said. “I am proud that we are able to enrich people’s lives through the United Fund of Atmore, and that this donation will help them accomplish that.”

Bishop, president of the United Fund, accepted the donation on the group’s behalf.

“We are very shocked because we did not know this was coming our way, it was an unexpected blessing,” he said. “We are proud and pleased to have the Tribe to consider us and what we do because the United Fund is a very viable part of our community because 100 percent of what we collect stays in our community.”

The United Fund gives donations to numerous non-profit organizations in and around Atmore each year. This year, the board has elected to assist 19 non-profits.

For check presentation photographs see page 9.