‘A new day’ begins at community center

“Out with the old and in with the new” is often repeated on New Year’s Day.

For the financially troubled Anna Maria Island Community Center, that phrase has been altered to be: “It’s a New Day” at the center.

Executive director Dawn Stiles said she and board of directors chairman Scott Rudacille have agreed on a new approach to inform the public of center activities and for fundraising.

“Things had to change,” said Stiles, who has been executive director 14 months. She was hired to succeed Pierrette Kelly, who was the center’s director for more than 22 years.

That’s why she, board chairman Scott Rudacille and board member David Teitelbaum met recently and agreed to the new slogan.

“It’s a new day” fits with what the center’s plans, Stiles said.

And it’s more than just a slogan, she added. “It’s to involve the entire community in the center.”

The first issue to address is getting former sponsors of the center to return. Stiles has said many major contributors to the center have stopped making donations, and there are a number of reasons.

“They want to know where their money is going,” she said. Stiles proposed to rekindle their interest and commitment by showing them exactly how a donation would be used.

She would also use personal meetings with the donors to discuss issues and what programs the major sponsors want offered.

Rudacille said the board would work with potential donors as well. He agreed the board should involve itself heavily in fundraising, but the board also needs a few more members.

Special district

Island property owners pay taxes to Manatee County that are used, in part, to fund the parks and recreation department, which operates Manatee Public Beach, Coquina Beach and Leffis Key. However, no county taxes go toward the community center, which is a nonprofit providing recreational, sports and wellness programs.

At the same time, direct contributions from the island cities have declined in recent years.

Rudacille agrees with the concept of creating a special tax district where an assessment is placed on each property to raise money for the community center. Cortez, Perico Island and Flamingo Cay could be included in the district.

Other ideas discussed include going to the island city commissions and asking for more funding. “Each island government should be helping the center,” Rudacille said.

The center fills some of the requirements for public recreation and activities in each city’s comprehensive plan, he noted.


Island ‘Affaire’

Stiles added that the Island Affaire, the center’s major annual fundraiser, was supposed to bring $150,000-$200,000 to the treasury, but came up short, raising only about $90,000.

Teitelbaum added that the event also fell short of its goal in the previous year, before Stiles arrived.

She said the “new plan” is to form a committee dedicated to creating a successful Island Affaire and reaching the goal of $200,000 a year.



Another idea is to issue a weekly email to center members and donors to inform people of the activities and financial condition of the center.

The center’s website should be updated on a daily basis, Stiles said, but old news and information is lingering and new input is needed. In the past, volunteers seemed to lose interest in updating the activities.

The center also will be more proactive in issuing press releases and news about upcoming events.



Stiles said the center needs volunteers for its many programs and challenges. Her observation is that a lot of people seem to have volunteered, but somehow they never get a volunteer position.

That’s going to change, she promised.

At the monthly meetings and in the center lobby, Stiles will maintain a poster display of volunteer openings. Those who want to volunteer will be able to sign up under the committee or activity of their choice.

“All of this is about us becoming more transparent, more involved with the community, more open,” Rudacille said.

He reminded people who believe the center should be run like a business that it’s not a business. “The center is about the kids. We are not a business.”

But the center does have a new day starting, he said.

On June 4, Stiles held a public meeting at the center with about 200 people in attendance and said the center had only about $60,000 in its operating account, barely enough to keep its doors open for another month.

That brought an outpouring of donations, including a $10,000 gift from a private donor through Holmes Beach Commissioner David Zaccagnino.

But for all the goodwill toward the center generated at the June 4 meeting, Stiles and the board of directors still must face some harsh realities.

“We are tackling those issues head-on and the board is totally supportive of the new day approach,” she said.


A new day

Fundraising, volunteering, transparency, finances, activities, scholarships and costs will be addressed more often and more openly to the public than in the past, Rudacille promised.

Stiles said she and Rudacille would plan another public meeting to update the community.

She said the dark financial picture painted at the June 4 meeting is now less grim, but the center has a long way to go, both in finances, programs and image.

“But we’ll get there with help from the community,” she said. “It’s a whole new day at the center.”



21-year Anna Maria Island Community Center employee, Scott Dell, resigns.

Center assistant director resigns

Dawn Stiles, executive director of the Anna Maria Island Community Center, announced the June 10 resignation of longtime center employee Scott Dell.

Dell had risen in 20-plus years at the center from the sports director to assistant executive director/chief operating officer.

In making the announcement, Stiles said, “Scott and his family have deep ties to the island and the community center.

“Scott will be missed by our staff and members, no matter what the situation Scott always had an upbeat, positive attitude.

“Scott welcomed me and proved to be a steadfast partner in running the center. I have tremendous respect for Scott and wish him the very best.”

Dell wrote in an email to The Islander June 20, “It has been an honor and a privilege to serve this community and its residents for the past 21 years. I look forward to the next chapter in my life and the possibilities for the future.”

He remarked on the wonderful people he met at the center, and his great memories: “I have really appreciated the outpouring of support from individuals and families who have been sharing their stories with me.

“I wish the community center all the best. This is an amazing community and it never ceases to amaze me its ability to pull together and rise to the occasion. I am grateful for the 21 years I was able to serve the residents of this great island.”

Stiles said the center would not fill the vacancy created by the resignation.

She announced that former athletic director Troy Shonk will return to work part-time to assist his replacement, Matt Ray, to allow a smooth transition. Ray is learning to budget the sports programs and Stiles will assist to improve athletic program oversight.

Meanwhile, as the center continues to struggle to revive donations, the recent Island Blood Drive brought in a record $6,808.

An anonymous donor to the Save Our Center fund is matching the June donations, which, as of June 20, were $35,303. The donor is matching up to $50,000 through the end of the month.


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