Picture, if you will, a single-story office complex, facing Jackson Street on the comer of Rosalind Avenue. A courtyard separated four units on the right from four on the left. The fountain in the center was of Spanish motif, as was the building. The fountain never worked, and nothing was done to make it work, since most of the businesses had moved to Orange Avenue where the city’s tall structures still stand. Now, reduce your image of the size of this office complex by more than one half and you will have some idea of the size of our first Intergroup Office. It seemed spacious to us, but in reality it was no larger than our present volunteers’ room. All we needed was a telephone, a desk and a couple of extra chairs for visitors. All furnishings were donated, including a typewriter and mimeograph machine that always leaked ink. However, the rent, S104 a month, made this setup very attractive.
Although there were 15 groups in the Central Florida area at the time, not all were contributing their services or their dollars. Many from the Central Group (Alco-An Club) thought that the new Intergroup “renegades” were deserting them because of the “Big Mac Attack.”
It was in this climate, in 1972, that Intergroup Services, devoid of club influence, got started. Several members were prominent in its beginnings. Jane G., a professional golfer; Robbie R., a retired Army Warrant Officer who served on a ship; John K, a local businessman; Eric N., the “Sweet Swede”; Gerhard W., a retired engineer; Joe C., retired Air Force; John Van, a retired editor and publisher; Mary C. (California Mary), who had transferred with her husband from Anaheim to work on the “new” Disney project, Hal D., a professional musician, and his wife Elise D., now editor of our INTERGROUPER. There were others, but these are the ones who come to mind.
One who was not mentioned, and to whom this article is dedicated is Marie G. For the first dozen years, anyone having contact with AA in Central Florida, AA members and professionals alike, were to know Marie.
Initially, one of the volunteers would take a day of duty at the Intergroup Office. Each had a key. It was never lonesome. AA members stopped by for coffee and conversation whenever in town. These “walk-ins” became the prime source for “recruitment” of volunteers. It wasn’t long before there were enough volunteers for a morning and an afternoon shift. A problem soon became apparent… The Tuesday morning person may have been conducting the office according to California procedure, while the Thursday afternoon volunteer might inject some New York-style AA. Each shift operated autonomously.
During July 1972, Marie G. was hired for a three-month trial period. The salary was a tremendous $18.75 a week. She would line up volunteers for the office, be there all day, and then take all night calls when night volunteers were unavailable, which was often. She was grossly underpaid.
Marie, a native of Massachusetts, spoke “Bostonian Irish.” People would go out of their way just to come by and talk with her. She was a very compassionate person who would drop everything to help an alcoholic. Many in our AA community remember Marie’s loving voice when they first called AA. She liked being surrounded by people, cracking jokes with the best of them. Few were able to match her wit. She was not a trained office administrator, and there were times when problems with office routine would test her tolerance. However, all that was necessary to restore her serenity was a call for help from a suffering alcoholic.
Marie created a cheerful, can-do environment in the Intergroup Office, where the welfare of the alcoholic came first. Also, in time, by her being there, talking with volunteers during each shift, a degree of standardization became evident in the office. Volunteers were now functioning as a team, giving the Intergroup Office an identity, cohesiveness and purpose.
Previous Article: History of AA in Orlando: Spirituality / Next Article: History of AA in Orlando: Marie (Part 2) - Jean B. Reminisces