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News is good for Quail Unlimited

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- After netting a much-needed $60,000 at January's renamed Quail Unlimited Conservation Celebrity Event, the outlook for the once troubled nonprofit continues to improve.

Quail Unlimited President and Albany native Bill Bowles said the 28-year-old national conservation organization is in the midst of relocating the group's headquarters after selling its Edgefield, S.C., office.

"There's been discussion about relocating to Albany, but we're looking into all options to determine what will be in the best interest for all of the organization," said Bowles, who is also the general manager of Quail Country Plantation in Arlington. "My No. 1 priority is to make sure whatever decision we make in regards to relocation of the national headquarters for Quail Unlimited is that it's fiscally responsible.

"I'm hopeful the decision will be made in the next 30 days and believe it will be made in the next 30 days."

Although it's been a few months since the QU celebrity event wrapped up, Bowles said he still thinks fondly back on the event because of how well Albany and the Southwest Georgia community pulled together to make the 24th edition of the organization's largest fundraiser successful.

"It was not only a financial turning point, but it was a turning point of attitudes, enthusiasm, excitement and the reality that national sponsors showed up in Albany for the revitalization of the organization," Bowles said. "(It was) not only those national corporate sponsors, but also all the local volunteers and the local Quail Unlimited chapter because they were so giving in making this event happen. The local companies and plantation owners literally rose to the occasion.

"We all realized that the mismanagement of others put us in a precarious situation (in 2008 and '09), and we said we are going to do everything in our power to keep this organization in existence."

Bowles said he was impressed with the commitment of Gov. Sonny Perdue for attending the event for two days. On the last day, Bowles said he was thrilled by Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany having 40 of its personnel at the event, as well as members of the Chehaw Boy Scouts Council, the Albany and Dougherty County police and sheriff's departments, and the Albany Fire Department.

"We would've had the (Albany) National Guard unit there, but they were deployed to Afghanistan," he said. "This community really needs to be proud of what they did for a positive change in direction for this organization. It's an awesome local story."

Bowles also announced that the organization's national magazine will switch from publishing six times a year and being produced in-house, to instead becoming quarterly. Its publishing and distribution will be handled by Village Press in Traverse City, Mich., which will also pick up many of Quail Unlimited's membership functions.

Village Press publishes 11 magazines it owns and 44 nonprofit organizations, Publication Director Steve Smith said. The Pointing Dog Journal and The Retriever Journal are two of its most well-known publications. Smith will edit the new QU Magazine with executive director Diana Kogan.

"We will spend the same amount of money that we put in for six issues," said Bowles, a 1978 Deerfield-Windsor graduate and '82 Auburn University grad. "It's going to be a bigger publication, and it will ensure that the magazine does not lose any money anymore."

Smith said he's known Bowles for about five years and has been a Quail Unlimited member since its inception. Smith said the new QU Magazine will publish the first week of June, September, December and March. It will also be split into three sections with the first focusing on habitat, the next -- called Wings Afield -- on hunting and the third will be Inside QU, which will chronicle chapter activities.

"We're in the final stages of design and it will come out the 5th of June," said Smith, who has worked with magazines for 30 years. "We'll edit, design, (take care of) reporting, ad sales, circulation, membership services, plus we print, bind and mail it in-house. We like to tell people that if they come in the front door with a checkbook and an idea, we can turn it into a magazine for them."

Smith said he's been impressed with the direction Bowles has taken Quail Unlimited since he was named the organization's president in November after the company endured financial struggles in 2008 and '09 that threatened to close the organization.

"The guy's got more energy than you can believe," Smith said. "He's really got the organization's best interest at heart. There's a lot of fences that need mending, and he's doing a lot to do that. We're never going to get all of them back -- there's a lot of organizations out there --but they can see there's a lot of things going on right there. ... They're doing what they're supposed to be doing -- they're working."

Quail Unlimited has retained its staff of five regional directors and has 117 active chapters. Banquets and habitat projects are either under way or in the planning stages. After having around 40,000 members in 2008, Bowles said the organization currently has a little less than 30,000 members.

"Watch us grow. We are rebounding," Bowles said. "(As the Quail Unlimited's president), I intend to finish the job and ensure that we return to stability, and I'm confident in the path that we're on. I'm proud to serve on behalf of the board of directors and every single member of Quail Unlimited for this organization."