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The 1930s – Not the Best Time to Raise Money

The decade of the 1930s wasn’t the best time for the community to conduct a broad-based fund-raising campaign. The after shocks of the Great Depression, an event that left a life-long impression on an entire generation, were still being felt in Colquitt County just as in the rest of the country.

 But the people of Moultrie and Colquitt County had their sights set on a new hospital for more than two decades, so in 1935 there was yet another move afoot to raise money and construct the community’s first hospital.

 The Public Works Administration, a part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, had approved a $50,000 grant for the new facility contingent upon the community matching that amount. Just like in other attempts over the past 20 years, the community was unable to raise the matching funds.

 But by 1938, for the first time in quite awhile, there was a hint of optimism in the air. Business was better than anticipated. Bank deposits were up in the community by 15 to 25 percent. Practically every segment of the local economy showed improvement over the previous year, according to an article in The Moultrie Observer.

 In its first edition of 1939 a banner stretched across the top of The Observer’s page 1 read: NEW YEAR FINDS CITY OPTIMISTIC.

"Everything points to 1939 as a banner year,” declared R.S. Roddenbury Sr., secretary of the Chamber of Commerce. “The last 12 months have seen business emerge from the recession stage and get back on the right road.”

Finally, the time was right.

The city and county listed its 12 top priorities for the year, ranging from road improvement to water and sewer upgrades, which were “essential to community growth.” No. 1 on the list was a new hospital.

During 1938, W.C. Vereen, one of Moultrie’s leading citizens, had stepped forward and offered $50,000 to match the Public Works Administration’s grant, but he made his offer contingent upon the community raising a like amount.

The Chamber quickly seized the opportunity, established a committee called the Moultrie Hospital Corporation and selected Alex Hall, the owner of a local hardware store, to head the committee and raise the funds. Although the economy was steadily improving, the Crash of ’29 was still vivid in many memories. But, despite that, the community did in fact raise the money by collecting hundreds of small donations to match Mr. Vereen’s offer.

The committee selected a site on South Main Street, near what was then the city limits. The site was selected because of highway access from all directions and its high visibility along the city’s main thoroughfare.

In late 1938, ground was broken on the new Vereen Memorial Hospital with a projected completion date of mid-summer. Delays, however, caused the hospital to not be ready until October 1939.

On Tuesday, Oct. 17, 1939 the community’s first hospital opened its doors for public inspection during a brief dedication ceremony. Dr. R.C. Gresham, pastor of Moultrie’s First Baptist Church, gave the dedicatory address and Mr. Vereen spoke briefly and praised the community’s spirit in raising the money to build the hospital.

The hospital’s first two patients were admitted one week later, on Oct. 24, and one of the two patients was the first to have an operation in the new facility.

Local merchants, in a show of pride for the new facility, collected donations for the first baby born at Vereen Memorial. The baby – Mary Ellen Leggett – arrived at 12:15 a.m. on Oct. 31. She was named for Mr. Vereen’s two deceased wives, Mary and Ellen, who were also sisters.