A story with a good ending

It was fitting that the weather changed Monday afternoon for the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Bainbridge State College Learning Center in Donalsonville.  Rain threatened all day until the skies broke open with brilliant sunshine.  It was somewhat symbolic of a project meant to be.
The lightning strike was quick, direct and devastating.  Before it was over, a half block on Cherry Street lay in ruins.  Nine businesses, most without insurance, suffered massive losses.  Some would not open again.
It took a year to get all the debris cleared up.  What remained was a concrete slab of various heights right in the middle of town.  Most of the thousands of cars passing by on US 84 each day would never know of the catastrophe that hit those businesses and families.  
Some good did come of that fiery night.  The city of Donalsonville realized the limitations of its equipment to battle that type of fire and before long a hook and ladder truck was in one of the bays at the fire station.
In the meantime, different people searched for a way to use this property.  The truth is that most small communities don’t have a half block open up for development on a prominent corner.   Its full potential called for a vision and money, neither a certainty in a small rural town.
The rest of the story is something that is part inspiration, part dedication, part cooperation and perhaps just a bit of divine intervention.
A group of citizens were meeting as part of a newly formed advisory group to Bainbridge College.  Part of the message of that group was the need for more accessible classes in Seminole County.  
In the meantime, there was another group of citizens that were interested in donating to worthy projects that would benefit the entire community and help promote the long term viability of Donalsonville and Seminole County.
What if a group donated a building for use by Bainbridge State College in Donalsonville?  It seemed like a marriage made in heaven, but the truth is the devil is in the details.  To the credit of the leadership of BSC and many others working behind the scenes, the deal was put together.  
The property was quietly assembled.  The architectural drawings were prepared.  The University Board of Regents gave their blessing.  The contractor was selected.  All of this led to Monday’s groundbreaking ceremony.  
It seems quite simple, in hindsight, but was, in fact, incredibly complex.  Determination on the part of many kept the project moving.  Nameless heroes refused to become discouraged.  Leadership from people you may never know kept their eye on the prize.
What a prize it is!   In seven months, our city will have a beautiful building standing where not too long ago just charred ruins remained.  There will be a place of opportunity and promise for those that only want to better themselves.   
The story doesn’t end with a few shovels of dirt at a groundbreaking.  It continues with students in class, adults learning to read, citizens becoming more qualified for jobs, and true hope for the future.  When this happens, we all benefit.
Not all stories have a good ending.  In this case, thanks to the vision of a few, the generosity of a few more, and the hard work of many this story ends well.  Very well, indeed.
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Dan Ponder can be reached at [email protected]

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