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Center board plans followup to ‘Save our Center’ meeting

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Following the “Save our Center” meeting June 4, when about 200 people met at the Anna Maria Island Community Center to discuss the center’s financial crisis and supported keeping the operation, the center board of directors and executive director Dawn Stiles met at 8 a.m. June 5 to discuss some of the suggestions gleaned from the meeting.

Additionally, Stiles said an anonymous donor agreed to match all donations up to $50,000.

“This is an opportunity to double your contribution to the center at a time of desperate need,” Stiles said.

At the June 5 center board meeting, an immediate action plan was created and approved.

Stiles will cut annual operating costs $50,000-$100,000 in the 2014-15 budget that begins July 1.

The board will allocate any available funds from the endowment trust held by the Manatee Community Foundation. At the same time, principal and interest payments on the building mortgage will be stopped while refinancing options are explored.

At the June 4 “Save our Center” meeting, Anna Maria resident Darcie Duncan called on the community to get back its “passion” for the center. A number of people, in addition to those who offered to volunteer during that meeting, have apparently heeded those words.

Stiles said several individuals came forward and expressed an interest in “making a commitment to the organization through board membership.” She said any applicants will be processed “expeditiously” as composition of the board is a “key component to the success of any organization.”

The board also is seeking volunteers to help with programs and office administration. A sign-up sheet is now at the front desk at the center, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria.

Quite a few “great ideas were presented” at the June 4 meeting or dropped off at the center, Stiles said.

Those ideas are being reviewed and evaluated by Stiles and the board as to whether they are mission related and revenue generating; what staff, volunteers and facilities may be required; and whether they are targeted to the community.

In the meantime, Stiles said she’s working on providing more information — transparency and financial backup — to what has already been provided.

Stiles said people after the meeting questioned how there could be no plan. They asked for documentation. Records. Graphs and numbers. She added, “of course, I have a plan.” But funding is critical to everything.

She said she is working to finalize her plan to carry the center forward in the future.

In the meantime, fundraising keeps pushing to the forefront.

At the June 7 U.S. Air Force concert in the center gym, Stiles noted the terms of the band’s performance  — free to the audience — limited the center from asking for donations. Donation jars were evident at the refreshment stations during intermission, but nothing could be solicited from the audience to help the center.

She also hopes to provide a list of volunteer needs — opportunities for people to sign up and work, providing much needed functions that will free staff to problem-solve and perform critical jobs.

Information will be added to The Islander website — www.islander.org — as it becomes available, while work continues to improve the center website at www.islandcommunitycenter.com.

Anyone interested can call the center at 941-778-1908.

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