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Date of Issue: September 23, 2009

Community Center eyes wedding revenue

Beset by a sagging economy that has seen donations and income decline by almost 10 percent the past year, the Anna Maria Island Community Center is looking at the hottest business on the Island as a source of revenue.

“The wedding trade has become extremely popular on the Island and it’s time the center went looking for that business,” said AMICC executive director Pierrette Kelly.

“We’ve got the largest indoor facility on the Island and the banquet hall can handle a wedding reception of 240 people comfortably and could go up to 400 people,” Kelly said. “I think we are perfect for the larger wedding receptions.”

The Center has been holding wedding receptions for the past 20 years, she said. It just hasn’t advertised that fact.

“We did it long before Island weddings became so popular, but we did it primarily for our members and Island residents,” Kelly said.

Times have changed.

The Center now has a color brochure advertising its location and amenities for large wedding receptions. Additionally, the Center will have a representative at the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce Wedding Festival in February to showcase the Center.

The Center doesn’t have the budget to advertise online or in wedding trade magazines.

“It would be great if we did, but we’ve never had an advertising budget. We rely mostly on word-of-mouth for our wedding receptions,” Kelly said. “If we can get the word out to more people about our facility, it would be a great thing for the Center.”

With good reason.

Times are tough for all nonprofit organizations, Kelly observed. Donations and endowment funding are off by 10 percent and the Center makes monthly mortgage payments for its new facility.

“Our financial situation is OK, but not great,” she said. “I’m now devoting a lot of time to writing grant proposals and letters to endowment funds and donors, but it’s difficult everywhere for nonprofit organizations,” she said.

“A lot of our donors just don’t have the funds they used to have, so we have to take every opportunity to find funding sources,” she said.

The Island’s escalating wedding industry might help.

From about 100 weddings annually five years ago, the wedding business has grown remarkably fast. Several Island hoteliers recently estimated that there would be about 700 Island weddings this year and more than 1,000 in 2010.

In addition to weddings, the Center can accommodate business meetings, special event receptions and parties.

Island businesses are used for catering, floral arrangements and entertainment for receptions and events, Kelly said.

“We like to take care of our Island businesses as much as possible. I only wish we had more events where we can hire their services. Hopefully, the wedding festival will help spread the word about the Center.”

The Center is at 407 Magnolia Ave. in Anna Maria.

For more information, call 941-778-1908.

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