SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Amidst disrepair, John Parker and James Putney see the history of American Legion Post 500. They also see its future.
“We have the abilities and the capabilities through outside help to get this post up and running,” said Putney, the commander of Post 500..
Parker and Putney spent a combined 43 years in the military. They’ve spent the better part of the last 10 years trying to restore the building on Montgomery Street that was once the home of Post 500, the first African-American Post in the state of Georgia.
“We were chartered in 1946 and we were designated the series number of 500, which was designated to all African-American posts during that time,” said Parker, the post’s immediate past commander. “We retain that number proudly. And it’s a legacy we’re proud of and we would hate to see our post fall into demise.”
The building started deteriorating long before Parker and Putney became members of the post, but the group's membership has remained 140 strong - meeting in various other locations for a decade, most recently at Savannah State.
But they feel it is past time to return to Montgomery Street.
"This is home,'' Parker said. "We thought about selling it and moving someplace else, but it has sentimental value. Most of our members would like to keep it here in this neighborhood and the people in the neighborhood want it to stay.'
"I speak to a lot of people in the community who say, ‘yeah we’re waiting for y’all’s post to come back up, because I remember when I was young, that’s where we were'’' added Putney. "We have revitalized so much of the city of Savannah, so I just feel like it’s time to revitalize Post 500.''
Post members have been using small fundraisers to pay property taxes on the building. But to rebuild it, they say they will need outside help.
Trying to find that help has been frustrating to the two veterans.
"I’ve petitioned banks, I’ve petitioned industry, private industry, local industry. I’ve even petitioned companies outside the state of Georgia,'' said Parker. "We haven’t had any luck. We’re not asking for much and it’s not like we’re to trying to help ourselves. But we can’t do it selling chicken dinners. We need some corporate financial support.''
And, as much time as they have put into this project, it;s hard to feel that time is not running out on Post 500.
"I have to admit, we’re in dire straights now,'' said Parker. "It;s been too long. Some of the members are starting to lose morale and they think we’re never going to get there. I was very confident up until the last year or so. Now I’m beginning to get pessimistic. We’re veterans, we gave our all for this country. So, we implore thoSe who have resources to please help us out if they can.''