Grants to Local Schools

Fairhope East Elementary (from left): Edward Schnell, president of the Rotary Club of Fairhope; Carol Broughton, FEE principal; Christina Stacey, FEE assistant principal; Poenta Luckie, 2019–2020 president, Rotary Club of Fairhope


Fairhope West Elementary (from left): Edward Schnell, president of the Rotary Club of Fairhope; Caroline Hollowell, FWE assistant principal; Poenta Luckie, 2019–2020 president, Rotary Club of Fairhope

In early 2020, Poenta Luckie, then president of the Rotary Club of Fairhope, solicited grant requests from local schools. Fairhope Elementary School and Fairhope Intermediate School, anticipating their needs as they reorganized into two K–6 schools, requested Leveled Literacy Intervention materials for the grades they were not currently serving. These LLI kits are crucial in remedial reading instruction (responsible for an improvement from D to A in reading scores at Fairhope Elementary School) but also very expensive. Although the Covid situation was rapidly evolving, it was already clear that the club’s annual fundraiser would have to be canceled, so the club had to be conservative in its donations, but it was able to allocate $10,500 for each school. The funds were disbursed before the beginning of the 2020–21 school year, but only recently was the club able to make a formal check presentation to school officials.

The club also donated $10,500 to Fairhope Middle School to be used for Promethean ActivPanel boards (interactive whiteboards) for science classrooms (such equipment was already available in math and language arts classrooms).

COVID-19 Testing Equipment for Thomas Hospital

Photo of Rotarians presenting a check for $57,894 to Thomas Hospital Foundation
From left: Bob Callahan, Foundation chair, Rotary Club of Fairhope; Jerry Blacklaw, 2020–2021 Governor, Rotary International District 6880; Kathy Baugh, Vice President, Infirmary Health; Mechell Ollinger, Director of Surgical Services, Thomas Hospital; Lee Turner, President, Fairhope Rotary Foundation; Poenta Luckie, 2019–2020 President, Rotary Club of Fairhope; and Ormand P. Thompson III, President, Thomas Hospital (Infirmary Health).

In partnership with The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International, which provided a global grant (GG2015357) for $24,000, and Rotary District 6880, which contributed $14,894 of its District Designated Fund (money that clubs in the district have sent to The Rotary Foundation that is returned to the district after three years), the Rotary Club of Fairhope (through its foundation) provided a $57,984 grant to Infirmary Health’s Thomas Hospital for the purpose of purchasing a GXIV-4-D testing system, a highly sensitive and accurate molecular instrument that tests for the COVID-19 virus and gives results in an hour. Without such a system, when patients presented in the emergency room, staff had to capture test samples and send those samples via courier to a hospital more than 30 miles away, and results were not available for 24–48 hours. This process exposed staff to the disease, presented serious bed management problems, and caused treatment delays. Since patients had to be treated as positive until proved otherwise, there was also sometimes unnecessary use of PPEs (personal protective equipment such as masks, face shields, gloves, gowns, etc.)

Headphones for Students at J. Larry Newton School

Members of the Rotary Club of Fairhope present a check for $1,750 to Lynn Smith, Assistant Principal, and Patrice Wolfe, Principal, of J. Larry Newton School for the purchase of 730 pairs of stereo headphones (one for each K–6 student) for use with computers.

Earplugs for the Fairhope High School Band

Band musicians can be subject to a wall of sound that, over time, can damage their hearing. Etymōtic Research has developed earplugs that allow band members to tame the music, suppressing the excess sound. Through Etymōtic’s Adopt-A-Band program, the Rotary Club of Fairhope was able to purchase, for about $1,450, 200 pairs of ER•20XS earplugs, one for every band member, along with educational materials and superior-quality earphones for the band director.

Walking School Bus Kiosk

After a six-year tradition of monthly themed “Smart Walks,” the Baldwin County Trailblazers partnered with Fairhope Elementary School (grades K–3) in 2013 to launch the first daily Walking School Bus program in the state of Alabama. Through this program, parents can avoid the deadly car line at the school by dropping their kids at the WSB dropoff point or walking with the group about half a mile to the school. Students are escorted by parents, teachers, and WSB volunteers. The popular program is now entering its seventh year of operation, with some 150 students registered. On the first day of school this year, 138 students and 144 parents and siblings joined the walk.

Many FES parents wanted their graduating third graders to be able to continue with a WSB when they attended Fairhope Intermediate School (grades 4–6) this year. For this reason, and also because both schools will be split to become K–6 schools in 2020, the Baldwin County Trailblazers decided to implement a “Pilot WSB” to FIS for the 2019–2020 school year. Since the school is not able to provide teacher support for 2019–2020, the pilot program is open only to students who have previously participated in the WSB at FES. These students/parents will already be familiar with the safety culture of the WSB, which is helpful since teachers will not be participating.

This WSB starts from a different dropoff point, so a new registration “kiosk” was required, and the Rotary Club of Fairhope offered to provide it. After some wheel-spinning (commissioning an architect member to draw up plans to be built by members, ultimately rejected as too complex), it was decided to purchase a prefabricated gazebo for about $5,000. Although some modifications are planned to adapt the structure to the requirements of the WSB, the organization is already more than pleased with this solution, and the FIS WSB kicked off with 32 students.

Batting Cage for Girls’ Softball

When the Lady Pirates softball team won the state 7A tournament in 2018, the state of that team’s facilities compared very unfavorably to what was provided for the boys’ baseball teams. Accordingly, the Rotary Club of Fairhope committed $23,000 for the purpose of building a batting cage for girls’ softball at Founders Park. Eventually the facility will have Rotary signage; for now, there is a thank-you banner in the outfield right next to the scoreboard.

Another Playground!

In late 2018, the club sponsored equipment for a small playground at the Manley Road Soccer Complex at a cost of $11,816.

Playground for Fairhope Intermediate School

When the Rotary Club of Fairhope learned that Special Education students at Fairhope Intermediate School were spending their recess in front of the school playing with leaves and acorns because they did not have a handicap-accessible playground, the club donated $30,500 toward playground equipment, becoming the principal sponsor of the playground. This amount included proceeds from the club’s annual fundraiser, supplemented by a $9,500 grant from Rotary District 6880.

Handheld Radios for Fairhope Middle School

Staff and teachers at Fairhope Middle School were experiencing communication difficulties because the handheld radios (walkie-talkies) they were using were not powerful enough to reach from one end of the building to the other or even between floors. Cell phones were not the answer because cell signal was usually not available inside the building. Summoning assistance or coordinating fire drills was a nightmare.  The Rotary Club of Fairhope, partnering with Point Clear Rotary Club and Fairhope Sunset Rotary, donated $1,500 for purchase of new, more powerful radios.

Vehicles for myTeam Triumph

By combining a $4,700 grant from District 6880 with $5,300 in club funds, we were able to make a $10,000 donation to myTeam Triumph / Southern Alabama for the purchase of two triathlon conversion racing chairs and one racing hand cycle. MyTeam Triumph is an athletic ride-along program for individuals with disabilities or special needs who would normally not be able to experience endurance events such as road races or triathlons. Individuals with muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, and other conditions are side by side with other athletes competing. The MyTeam Triumph / Southern Alabama Chapter includes the counties from Montgomery south to Mobile. Among others, the Southern Alabama Chapter of MyTeam Triumph participates in the Grandman Triathlon, Run Forrest Run 5K, Senior Bowl 10K, First Light Marathon, Joe Cain 5K, and the Spring Fever Chase.


A check presentation was held November 12, 2016, at the conclusion of the Pirate Dash 5K race. As shown, the Rotary logo is displayed on the team’s trailer and the wheels of the vehicles. This branding is effective for three years and will be seen by 100,000 people at race events each year.

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For this project the club received a Rotary Foundation Centennial Certificate of Recognition for “sponsoring outstanding district grant–funded activities completed in 2015–16.”

Furnishings for Fairhope Middle School “Outdoor Classroom”

FMS Outdoor ClassroomBecause the cost of the playground equipment described below came in at just over $21,000 (not counting the cost of the sign), the club was able to respond to a request from Fairhope Middle School for help in furnishing its “outdoor classroom” (the Discovery Exploration Center). The project had been funded jointly by the City of Fairhope, FEEF (Fairhope Educational Enrichment Foundation), Fairhope Sunset Rotary Club, and the Fairhope Middle School PTC. To complete it, FMS needed to purchase commercial-grade, maintenance-free, ADA-approved tables with benches and freestanding benches. Our club donated $2,700 to this effort, covering the purchase of three picnic tables with benches.

FMS Outdoor Classroom

President Tom Gulledge and other Fairhope Rotarians were present for the ribbon cutting.


Volanta Park Playground Equipment

Park entranceAs noted below, the proceeds from our annual steak cookoff fundraiser fund our service projects for the next year. The more money we make, the more we have to spend. But one expenditure is not discretionary: our Thomas S. Scoggins Memorial Scholarships are a $10,000 annual commitment no matter how the cookoff fares. So, in 2011, we added $25 a year to member dues to create a “club reserve” that would fund the scholarships if the cookoff was entirely rained out.

In 2015, after eleven years without a cancellation and five years of increased dues, the “rainy-day fund” had reached a point where it seemed prudent to use some of it for a service project. The project we identified was new playground equipment for a small playground at the entrance to three of the ball fields at Volanta Park. We committed $25,000 to this project and on April 5, 2016, were able to officially open the playground.

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“Pirate Galley” Concession Stand

In our club, the president elect is the chairman of our annual steak cookoff fundraiser. The following club year, as president, he guides the board in deciding how to allocate the proceeds of the cookoff. In 2013–2014, President Howard Eddy recommended that we take on the project of working together with the Fairhope Pirate Booster Club and the City of Fairhope to build a new concession stand for W. C. Majors Field, where the Fairhope High School football team plays its games.

The board agreed and ultimately donated $41,000 to this project. The City and other contractors provided labor, vendors provided materials, and the Booster Club raised additional funds for a new concession stand that is about triple the size of the old one.

The original concession stand had three sales windows; the new one has four. In addition, “spirit” merchandise (caps, T-shirts, and the like), once relegated to a tent outside, now has its own storage room (the Pirate Closet) with a sales window. There is also an express window for sales to band members, cheerleaders, and police, fire, and ambulance personnel.

Among the enhancements of the new concession stand, called “Pirate Galley,” are a walk-in freezer and a cold room. And in general there is just a lot more storage space and more room for volunteers to operate.

Pirate Galley concession stand

At the last home game of the 2015 football season, the Booster Club held a Sponsor Appreciation Night, and members of the Rotary Club of Fairhope and Rotaract Club of the Eastern Shore were invited to attend and be recognized. We presented our “big check” and saw the plaque that will be mounted on the concession stand building.

Pirate Galley Dedication

Rotarians and Rotaractors surround those holding the check: PP (2014–2015) Geoff Kennedy, PP Howard Eddy, also president elect of the Fairhope Pirate Booster Club, and Erik Cortinas, City of Fairhope Building Official and president of the Fairhope Pirate Booster Club.

Pirate Galley plaque

Stimpson Field Fitness Trail

With a great deal of help from the City of Fairhope (which installed the equipment) and a grant from District 6880, the Rotary Club of Fairhope and the Fairhope Sunset Rotary Club have provided a 10-station Fit-Trail parcourse fitness trail at Stimpson Field in Fairhope. Pictured below are the overall trail inside the walking/running track and the text of the informational signs at the beginning of the trail. A description of each fitness station and instructions for its use can be seen at the Fit-Trail website.

Stimpson Fit-Trail