The other non-profit – the 450th Corps

Historic City News reporters have noted that City Manager John Regan is already putting staff to task; holding a “kick off” meeting to make sure that everyone understands their role in St. Augustine’s upcoming commemorations.

Of course the city has suffered more than one false start in the commemoration planning process. Mayor Boles appointed a blue ribbon “steering committee”, Heritage Tourism Director Dana Ste. Claire was hired to serve in the dual capacity or Executive Director of a local 450th Commission, and, most recently, Don Wallis and Colin Bingham formed a corporation that took $300,000 in advance from the city — but has delivered nothing.

Before there was a First America Foundation, on October 29, 2007, incorporation papers were sent to Tallahassee by former mayor George Gardner to establish the “St. Augustine 450th Corporation”.

The 450 Corps was a citizen organization that was formed to begin planning for the 450th Anniversary of St. Augustine’s founding in 2015. Its mission was to generate community interest, ideas for anniversary programs and projects, and potential sponsorships. It accomplished many of those goals in measurable terms by all available evidence.

Almost immediately, a talented local graphic artist had produced a logo that captures the spirit of the “450th Corps”, as they are known. A local bank, The Bank of St. Augustine, provided financial support, a web site design was deployed by Augustine Web Services and “”, a functioning website that provides utility to volunteers, was born.

The 450 Corps was always designed to fold into a Federal 450th Commission. With assistance from supporters not afraid to do the work, the Corps became a Florida non-profit corporation with Federal 501.c.3 status for tax-deductible contributions.

Transparent from the outset, Gardner showed that there were “no secrets here” — openly publishing minutes of the meetings on the organizations public website. Gardner deserves credit for his leadership and inclusive approach to his mission.

When the commission agreed to turn over the commemoration planning to First America, the 450 Community Corps began to stand down. So, now that Chairman Donald Wallis has admitted his leadership failure, where does that leave the 450 Community Corps?

Historic City News editor Michael Gold asked George Gardner and learned that the “450 Corps” board will meet shortly to plan a general meeting. “It will be open” Gardner joked.

“We’ll get back to doing what we started four years ago,” Gardner said. “We were developing programs and project ideas, enrolling volunteers, and assisting community organizations in producing programs and projects.”

We asked Gardner’s impression of what the future holds with the knowledge of the city’s “policy shift” no longer clinging to the First America Foundation “status quo”. Gardner replied, “Not sure where other groups may be now, but we’ll cooperate with other initiatives which may have been started or are planned.”

To learn more about the St. Augustine 450th Corporation or to review minutes from the 450 Corps meetings since October 2007, visit The 450 Corps formed as a community organization to generate community interest, develop ideas for programs and projects, and encourage the establishment of a formal 450th Anniversary program. The 450 Corps is a non-profit 501 (c) 3 for the benefit of our upcoming three-year commemoration period, beginning in 2013 with the Quincentenary of Ponce de Leon’s discovery of Florida and continuing through 2015, the 450th Anniversary of the founding of our Nation’s Oldest City.

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