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On January 31st, 1947, when Dave H. Wheeler, N.J.Thompson, H.P. Griffith, D.W. Hunt, and E.H. Crosland officially incorporated under the name ACOA with the purpose of ‘disseminating knowledge and information regarding the disease of alcoholism’, do you think they knew how many future lives might be transformed as a result? It’s hard to say.
And when Secretary of State W.P. Blackwell signed that official document for ‘A Corporation Of Alcoholics'(ACOA) to ‘hold property in common for eleemosynary purposes’, do you think he imagined just how many lives would be saved down the road? We’ll never know.
One thing is sure, the grand after-effects that began with this Certificate of Incorporation are clear to see now that we stand in the present time, looking back. Thousands, if not tens of thousands of men and women, have since been given the chance to be liberated from the deadly disease of alcoholism at 2015 College St. The ACOA Club.
LOT NO. 20
Though that first step of officially organizing was critical, what followed only eight months later was of equal importance. On September 24th, 1947 the City of Columbia made a vital land grant directly to this newly formed ACOA group. This humble yet meaningful slice of land was valued at $1200. But, as the deed stated, it would remain in the hands of ACOA as long as it was used ‘exclusively as a meeting place, and to carry on various activities of Alcoholics Anonymous’. Further wording states the purpose of ‘establishing and continuously maintaining thereon an Alcoholics Anonymous Center’.
Though it’s impossible to know the exact vision held in the words ‘Alcoholics Anonymous Center’, the signers knew if they had to follow the general agreement of ‘carrying on the various activities of Alcoholics Anonymous’. If they didn’t, the land and title would revert to the City of Columbia. Keep in mind, the ‘Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous’ had only been published about seven years earlier and that book didn’t give much direction on organizing AA groups or clubhouses. And, the traditions of AA, which offer more guidance on these matters, would not hit the shelves for another six years! In early 1948 a bank mortgage was taken out and our modest, 1-story, cinderblock club was built. Meetings began that same year.
After a renovation of the building and a resulting upswing in its membership in 2014 the club is now thriving more than ever. To the surrounding community the ACOA Club may seem as nondescript as many of its anonymous members. But, to most of those who have ever walked through the doors of ACOA and attended AA meetings, the spiritual value is glaring. Perhaps one need only look at the use of the word ‘eleemosynary’ in the original ACOA contract to better understand its endurance in our recovery community. Eleemosynary is rooted in the Greek word ELEOS, meaning ‘mercy’. And, more than 70 years since the doors opened at ACOA, it continues to offer mercy, fellowship, and a design for living to those seeking alcoholic recovery.