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Connection with the past
ITPA calls Hinesville home for its national HQ
ITPA members peer into a glass case that contains old instrumentation panels and electronics previously used in the phone industry. The former Bryant estate houses the new ITPA national headquarters and telephone museum. - photo by Phgoto by Patty Leon
The bus rolled into the driveway with everyone’s eyes peering out the tinted windows. It came to a stop and a loud hissing sound filled the air as the hydraulics kicked in and lowered the bus toward the ground so everyone could disembark. The passengers stepped out, taking in the views of the lush trees and gracious home before them, and  knowing they are finally home.
The Independent Telecommunication Pioneer Association has found a new home for their National headquarters right here in Hinesville, because of the Bryant Family Foundation.
In addition to gaining a new home, the community gets a museum that pays tribute to the pioneers, workers and equipment used throughout the history of the telephone and telecommunications industry.
ITPA is a nationwide organization that has about 9,000 members. Most are retirees from the telecommunication industries. From switchboard operators to serviceman and utility wire installers, they are the backbone of the developing telecommunications systems.
The former ITPA headquarters was in Washington D.C. until situations no longer allowed the organization to remain there.
Packed up with nowhere to go, ITPA was searching for a new home when Coastal Communication worker Bobby Ryon brought their situation to the attention of the Bryant Family Foundation.
After several meetings, the decision was made to move ITPA and the phone museum to Hinesville.
During a dedication ceremony Friday evening, a busload of ITPA members caught their first glimpse of the new headquarters and museum, and feasted on a southern tradition — Lowcountry boil.
The museum is the former home of Trudy and Glenn E. Bryant. Glenn Bryant was the founder of Coastal Communications. He bought the Hinesville Telephone Company in 1946 and later acquired Coastal Telephone Co.
in Richmond Hill, and merged the two under the name Coastal Utilities.
Bryant, who died in 1999, served as a state senator and was a visionary in business, political, community and charitable ventures. His philanthropic legacy is carried on by the work of the Bryant Family Foundation and its current board chairman, Ed Haymans.
“The Bryant family wanted to do something to honor their parents and the property was their actual home,” Haymans explained. “The property was donated to the foundation and getting the ITPA moved in was the first thing we wanted to accomplish.”
“We feel so fortunate that the Bryant Foundation was receptive and delighted to have us,” said incoming ITPA President Harold Hayes. “My goal this first year is to make sure everyone knows we have a new home here in Hinesville so they can come out and visit and let the community of Hinesville know we are here for them to enjoy,” he said.
Hayes said he looks forward to the opportunities this new office will provide the ITPA and the community.
“The ITPA is a community service organization, our motto is get out there and volunteer,” he said.
Nationally the ITPA supports the Alzheimer’s Organization, but they are also committed to supporting the groups within  local communities.
The house will not only be the new office of the ITPA, but will also house a training and conference center for community organizations to use, the museum dedicated to the telecommunications industry and another museum portion that will pay tribute to the Bryant’s.
Hinesville Mayor Tom Ratcliffe commented on the generosity of the Bryant family and is enthusiastic with the development of the museum and other possible developments within the Bryant estate.
“This is wonderful. It adds to the revitalization of downtown Hinesville and the surrounding community,” he said. “We look forward to the future projects that are being developed that will make this estate part of a community park.”
The property is on 150 acres of trees, ponds and canals, yet is accessible off Highway 84 just across from the new development authority  building.
Haymans stated the foundation is looking at turning the butler’s building that sits in the property into a pavilion style building with cooking facilities and restrooms that could be used for public receptions and community events. The Foundation is currently collecting the memorabilia that will adorn the part of the museum dedicated to the Bryants.
Some of the artifacts that are inside the phone museum include an old switchboard, a wooden handset actually used by Alexander Graham Bell, old style phones and repair equipment and photos commemorating the Rural Telephone Act.
“This is going to provide a wonderful educational experience for the community and school systems,” Ratcliffe said. “This will help teach the children that not all phones are turquoise and fit into your pocket.”
“Some of the memorabilia inside the museum are equipment that I actually worked with and used when I worked in the industry,” said Hayes. 
The final steps before the museum opens officially to the public are being worked out.
Hours of operation will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
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