LAKEWOOD RANCH — Brian Johnson has watched East County teenagers transform before his eyes.
Teens who used to swear and do drugs have traded in their wayward days under the mentorship of volunteers and staff members at Lakewood Ranch YMCA’s Teen Outreach Program.
“You see their life change, and it’s amazing,” Johnson said.
But the change would not have been possible without funding from the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund, which has donated $30,000 in each of the last two years. At a special check presentation at the Lakewood Ranch YMCA July 21, the fund did it again — this time reaching deeper into its pockets to do so.
This year’s contribution accounts for 37.5% of all monies the fund will donate to local charities this year.
“We love the program, and we support it 100%,” Community Fund Vice President Ron Masseo said.
In years past, the Community Fund has doled out more than $100,000, usually splitting the monies amongst well more than a dozen charities, including Southeastern Guide Dogs, and Manasota Bringing Up Down Syndrome, among others. But because corporate sponsorships were down considerably this year because of the economy, the fund had only about $80,000 to allocate this year, Masseo said.
The remaining $50,000 will be distributed Oct. 16 at a ceremony at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall.
The Community Fund first discussed the idea for a teen outreach program with YMCA officials several years ago after talking with residents in the community, who all said the area needed more activities for its youth. YMCA officials already had been hoping to develop such a program and the groups joined forces.
“As a board, we decided to make an impact,” Masseo said. “We wanted to pick one charity and make a significant (investment).”
The program now hosts activities such as its fifth-quarter event, in which the YMCA is open from 9 p.m. to midnight once a month for games, activities such as a skate park and dodge ball and free food and drinks.
The fund had planned to sponsor the pilot program for just its first two years, but decided to continue its support when the YMCA again sought funding this year, Masseo said.
Contact Pam McTeer at email@example.com.
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