Residents of the Grand Bay area need a public library. There’s no question about that, according to Citizens for a Better Grand Bay, whose statistics show 28,285 people with an average household income of $47,000 live in Grand Bay, Dawes, St. Elmo and Irvington. And Mobile Public Library data indicate the most frequent users of library services are in households with a $25,000 to $75,000 income, according to CBGB president Aleta Boudreaux.
Citizens for a Better Grand Bay are, and have been for several years, working toward the goal of providing a library for the area. And in the process, their plan is also to restore and use a couple of century-old buildings in the town’s nationally recognized historic district.
The proposed Grand Bay Library will be housed in the two-story brick Grand Bay State Bank building at the corner of Dezauche Lane (Pottertract Road) and Freeland Avenue. When complete, in addition to being the Grand Bay Library and technology center, part of the building will be dedicated to historical and agricultural displays where residents can learn about the community’s rich heritage of farming. The project also includes the renovation of the old Albert Freeland Store and a nearby area that will be used as a community park.
And all that takes money.
Boudreaux, coordinator for the Grand Bay Library Project, said the total amount needed to complete the library and museum is estimated at $656,000. As of the end of 2015, approximately 30 percent of the total building renovation had been completed. Funds have come from various grants, from local fundraisers and from individual donors.
Currently on the table is a $50,000 matching grant pledge from the Daniel Foundation. A total of $25,000 has been raised; the deadline to raise another $25,000 to get full credit from the grant is approaching in June.
About the need for a library in Grand Bay, Boudreaux said the nearest one is 13 miles away.
“And with no public transportation system, this creates a hardship on students and adults who need the resources of a local library for research and study and to apply for employment online,” Boudreaux said. “By locating the library in a historic building, we are not only preserving our past, we are also preparing for the future growth of our rural area with a state-of-the-art modern library.”
Boudreaux added, “More than just books and banks of computers, libraries are places where individuals gather to explore, interact and imagine. It is the goal that the Grand Bay Library will be a community-centered library, offering a space to meet the needs of our diverse population and become an essential part of our area’s growth.”
The Grand Bay Library will also be the focal point for a community redevelopment project that includes a second historic building, the Albert Freeland Grocery Store, with the adjacent land to be used as a park and recreation area and a pavilion on the site of the Old Grand Bay Depot. These open public areas will be used for market days, festivals, concerts and community gatherings, Boudreaux said.
The old brick building has an interesting past. Built in 1913, it served as the Grand Bay State Bank until 1929, the beginning of the Great Depression. From 1933-1975, the post office was located on the ground floor and, according to Boudreaux, “Many residents remember piano recitals and meetings held in the second-floor Masonic meeting hall.”
Most recently, records show, the building was the site of the El Cazador Museum, where gold from a Spanish treasure ship found in the Gulf of Mexico was reclaimed and exhibited. A multimedia exhibit about the El Cazador is currently featured at GulfQuest National Maritime Museum in Mobile.
With the Daniel Foundation matching grant, this is a perfect time for those interested in seeing a Grand Bay Library complex come to fruition. They can make an outright donation, remember a loved one with a monetary memorial gift, contribute an honorarium to honor a living parent, family member, friend or beloved pet, or even set up a legacy fund from one’s estate — or hold a fundraising event with proceeds to benefit the project.
Money can be sent online through gofundme.com/grandbaylibrary or through a PayPal account to firstname.lastname@example.org or simply donate by check, which should be mailed to CBGB-Grand Bay Library, P.O. Box 274, Grand Bay, AL 36541.
Donations are tax deductible and will directly benefit the community. For more information, call 251-656-4576.
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