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Longboat Key Wednesday, May. 26, 2010 7 years ago

Longboaters learn secrets of community-center success

by: Robin Hartill Managing Editor

In the late 1990s, the Florida Department of Children and Families notified the Anna Maria Island Community Center that it didn’t have sufficient space for teen programs. Pierrette Kelly, executive director of AMICC, recalls the effect was devastating for the center because it forced programs out of the facility.

It was the beginning of seven years of planning, community meetings and fundraising that would culminate in nine months of construction and the completion of a 25,000-square-foot $5.2 million community center that opened in November 2007. Many of the donations were pledged over a 10- or 15-year period, so the building was completed with the help of a federal economic development loan.

In front of the entrance to the center stands a red-and-orange painted wooden plank that reads, “Burn the mortgage.” It’s a reminder to the center’s 1,000 members and 3,000 users of the $778,000 outstanding balance that remains on the building.

Kelly told the story of AMICC’s facility Tuesday, May 18, to about 20 Longboat Key residents who are interested in establishing a new community center here. The group toured the community center, which includes a kitchen, baseball field, multi-purpose room with a stage, courts that can be used for games such as basketball and racket sports and classrooms.

“One of the things we wanted to do was make it a multi-purpose facility,” Kelly said.

This year, winter-season programs for adults ranged from Spanish classes to silk-scarf painting, with a variety of support groups and fitness classes. Youth programs include basketball, baseball and summer camp. And the stage in the auditorium has allowed the center to be used for county-and-state presentations, along with community fundraisers.

AMICC operates with an annual budget of approximately $900,000, which includes salaries of six full-time employees. According to Kelly, program fees, fundraising, grants and donations each make up roughly a quarter of that budget. AMICC finds sponsors and underwriters for each event, allowing the center to operate with a zero-dollar budget for events.

Kelly told the group that building relationships with donors would be key.

“Donors have to be engaged in the long term,” she said. “They have to see, 20 years from now, how the community is going to be better.”

AMICC has a legacy society to honor donors who have sent a letter of intent to their attorney to leave money to the community center. It also offers naming opportunities for virtually everything around the campus, including trees, the baseball dugout and playground equipment.

“They’re all fundraising opportunities,” Kelly said.

Longboat Key Town Commissioner Lynn Larson, who attended the meeting, said that because Longboat Key’s demographics are different from those of Anna Maria Island, the offerings of a Key community center should be different. She said that a Longboat Key community center could be used for health education and screenings rather than after-school programs.

“It would build a sense of community and integrate a lot of people who may be splintered into different groups,” she said.

By The Numbers
Anna Maria Island Community Center
Cost of facility
(completed in 2007)..................$5.2 million
Annual operating budget...........$900,000
Outstanding mortgage
balance..................................... $778,000
Amount raised at largest
annual fundraiser.......................$200,000+
Square footage..........................25,000
Users per year...........................3,000

Contact Robin Hartill at [email protected].

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