The Foothills Community Partnership and the Anniston Civil Justice Fund came into existence because of Anniston’s difficult past with environmental pollution. Thousands of Anniston properties needed testing for potential lead contamination; Foothills performed that role. Four law firms involved in a PCBs-related lawsuit in Anniston created a $1 million fund that would issue local grants focused on education, technology and academic enrichment.
The sad news is both of their missions are ending. Foothills is closing its Noble Street office at the end of this month. The Anniston Civil Justice Fund has issued its last grant. Their jobs are complete.
Nonetheless, Anniston is better today because of these two organizations.
To see Foothills’ contribution to the city, one needs to get dirty — literally. Formed as a consortium of former industries in order to clean up lead pollution, Foothills tested people’s lawns, removed the polluted layers of dirt whenever they were found, and repaired the property with lead-free soil.
The numbers are staggering: More than 4,500 tested properties, more than 15,000 samples taken and more than 3 million square feet (596 properties) of land cleaned.
“That’s thoroughly cleaned,” Tom Potts, a Foothills spokesman, told The Star recently. That’s also a monumental undertaking, any way you look at it.
In 2004, the Anniston Civil Justice Fund awarded its first grant from the four separate $250,000 contributions from the law firms who desired to do more for their local clients. As a recent story in The Star outlined, examples of the fund’s impact are seen across the Anniston area: A $25,000 grant for the Hobson City library; the creation of the College Gateway program that assists eligible students with varieties of assistance, including mentoring and tuition; and a $200,000 grant for Anniston City Schools’ technology program.
Though born out of one of Anniston’s darkest modern-day chapters — PCBs pollution — the fund has been a godsend for college-bound students and local schools.
The dedication of groups such as Foothills and the Civil Justice Fund gives us hope that Anniston’s future will be something greater than the worst of its recent past. When we make the right choices, when we invest in our future and properly educate our students, anything is possible.