Civil Rights Institute launches campaign

ALBANY, Ga. -- In 2008, Old Mt. Zion Church at the Albany Civil Rights Institute was reopened after being restored to its original glory.

Now, pieces of the church are being used as a means to secure funds for the facility.

For a donation of $5,000 or more, a person can get an inscribed plate attached to one of the pews of the church -- a movement those at the institute refer to as the "Legacy Pew" campaign.

"This is an effort to secure gifts at a larger level," said Albany Civil Rights Institute Executive Director Lee Formwalt. "We wanted to jumpstart the campaign and encourage people to think of gifts at higher levels."

Two pews were purchased in 2008 upon the facility's reopening. On Tuesday, two more donations were secured for pews from Albany Mayor Willie Adams and Artesian Contracting Company.

Adams and his wife made their contribution in honor of some attorneys they came into acquaintance with during their involvement with the Civil Rights Movement while at Florida A&M University.

"We had the NAACP provide us with attorneys when we were arrested," he said. "We decided to get a pew in honor of those attorneys.

"I will always be grateful to the NAACP and to the attorneys for me becoming the person I am today. As a group of people we have made tremendous progress, but the battle for equality is nowhere near over."

Formwalt said that while he is grateful for the smaller donations the institute gets, they are not enough to keep the facility going to the level they would like to be at.

"We need additional support," he said. "We are trying to build up the local support. People do not want to see this facility fail."

Glenn Singfield, co-owner of Artesian Contracting Company, spoke out on the reasoning for their contribution.

"We think it is imperative we give back as we benefit from the growth of the community," he said.

In the past, Artesian has given to organizations such as the American Red Cross and the SOWEGA Council on Aging. "You have to have a heart to give, but you also have to have the means to," Singfield said. "We always give. It's an obligation; local businesses support our community.

"I think it will benefit sharing the legacy."

Artesian Contracting Company was the contractor for the institute's renovation.

The "Legacy Pew" effort is being conducted alongside the institute's spring and fall fundraising campaigns.

The executive director said he was touched by the generosity of Adams and Artesian Contracting Company.

"I talked to both of these guys and there was no hesitation on their part," he said.

The church is utilized by the institute as part of the museum tour.

"We tell visitors it is our most important artifact," Formwalt said.

Pledges can be sent to the museum directly or via its Web site, www.albanycivilrightsinstitute.org.