The second floor of the Alco-An Club, located at 231 E. Jackson Street, was the first home of our Intergroup Office. That was the only AA or quasi-AA facility with a telephone. The year was 1968.
Bill S. answered calls and contacted the few volunteers available to respond to 12th-step calls. Bill T. remembers, “There were only 10 or 12 names on the 12th-step list, representing a little more than a dozen groups in the tri-county area—Seminole, Orange and Osceola.” Those who consented to take these calls understood that it meant being available around the clock. It was not unusual for a volunteer to make three or four calls a week. One might live in Union Park and respond to calls in Ocoee or wherever. To say they were overworked is a matter of opinion.
There were not too many of us AA’s in the area 20 years ago. There were no treatment facilities and most doctors tried not to tend to alcoholics. One complained, “Alcoholics make a scene in the waiting room, hardly ever stay sober, and don’t pay their bills.”
If we thought the alcoholic was in serious condition, standard practice was to drop him off at an emergency room and quickly bug out. If you weren’t there to take the alcoholic back, they had to keep him. No, we did not feel overworked. Most felt a spiritual satisfaction for having helped a suffering alcoholic.
When Bill S. was not on the phone, anyone in arm’s reach of the downstairs phone answered. And you got anything — ’’Your dime, shoot” or “So what do you want?” — much to the consternation of those who were trying to make a “go” of the Intergroup.
Money was really a problem. Dime collections were the norm. We were just beginning to put a quarter in the basket. To help support the Intergroup, B-O-T-M-C was organized. At the March 26, 1972, meeting Wes B. explained, “Each and every AA member in District 6 [Orange, Lake, Seminole, and Osceola Counties] have been asked to contribute $1 per month for the support of the expanding services of Intergroup.”
Then came a gift from heaven. One Edward McDonald, known as Mac, offered his services as a full-time employee. Mac had been an Episcopalian priest before he was defrocked. He was hired as full-time secretary at a salary of $200 a month.
There was very little Mac could not do. He organized the upstairs office, the telephone answering service, and 12th-step work; arranged for speakers; and even did some counseling. Mac was in great demand as a speaker. A professor at the University of Central Florida said he would always remember the straightforwardness of this “man of the cloth,” especially his opening statement: “I found God to save my soul, but it was Alcoholics Anonymous that saved my ass.”
It was not long, however, before cracks in Mac’s shining armor began to appear. Inconsistencies in what Mac said regarding business matters aroused suspicions. Members of the Intergroup Steering Committee — Mary C., Robbie R. and Jane G., as well as others — decided to confront him. Too late! Mac had already skipped town, taking with him $400-$500 of contribution money that he was supposed to bank, the Intergroup Office typewriter, a new adding machine (on which there was still a $70 unpaid balance), and a check for $100 (on which he had forged Ed J.’s name). He did leave behind a sadder but wiser AA community.
Talk about grumbling—”If you can’t trust a priest, who can you trust?” Even after Mac left, it was difficult for many of us to consider him a phony. He was that good as a con artist.
After this experience, the Intergroup Steering Committee decided to locate the office far away from the club atmosphere. They did — one block. But we did learn that you had better “look a gift horse in the month!”