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Date of Issue: September 30, 2009

As donations slow, Center shakes up



Anna Maria Island Community Center executive director Pierrette Kelly said last week she is now devoting the vast majority of her time to grant writing and fundraising.

Kelly told the Center’s board of directors at a Sept. 21 meeting that because of the financial position of the Center she will “focus on getting grants and endowments” to supplement revenues.

At the same time, assistant executive director Scott Dell is “stepping up into the role of chief operating officer” and will be reporting on programs and other activities to the board, she said.

Kelly stopped short of saying the Center is in difficult financial shape, but said revenues and finances are “critical to be able to build a solid future.”

Without revenue, Kelly said the Center won’t be able to present the programs and activities it needs to serve the community.

“Revenue has to come first to provide the activities and programs,” she said.

Kelly also will head up the development committee, which is compiling a list of past donors and creating a list of new donors. She asked board members to supply her with a list of potential donors, in addition to names of community members who might volunteer at the Center or join the board or a committee.

Board members discussed how to take a more active role in making people aware of the Center.

Chairman Tom Breiter suggested that the Center host the local real estate agents to discuss Center benefits and get the agents to drive by the Center with clients to “impress new people” to the Island.

Board member Don Schroder, a real estate agent, said most agents already do that, but he’d be happy to arrange a meeting at the Center. In addition, Schroder will give Kelly a list each month of names of people who have bought property on the Island.

“There’s a lot of untapped potential with newcomers,” Kelly said.

She’s also getting the word out about the Center’s ability to function as a conference site and wedding venue.

Kelly has talked with the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce about becoming a partner in the February Island Wedding Festival and other means to let businesses know the Center can host functions.

Dell said the Center will do a number of small, fundraising events in October, including a Halloween costume party and mystery theater performance.

And a golf tournament is being held Oct. 9 at IMG Academies Golf and Country Club to raise funds.

But even as the Center expands fundraising activities, it’s cutting expenses, Dell said.

The Center is operating with a “bare-bones skeleton crew and we need everyone to pitch in. We also need more volunteers,” Dell said.

The Center no longer has a maintenance supervisor, just an hourly worker. There are only four other full-time hourly wage earners, he said, and five full-time staff members on salary and five part-time employees, he said.

But programs have not been harmed by the budget cuts or the decline in donations, Dell indicated.

“Our motto is still that ‘no child gets turned away,’” he said.

During the summer months, the Center had 212 young people for activities, but 57 percent of those were on scholarship. That cost the Center $27,000.

There is still a need for many volunteers, Dell said, particularly with the teenage group.

Many of the teens are considered to have “at-risk behavior,” Dell said.

This past summer, he said he observed more incidents of inappropriate behavior than any previous summer.

The image of teenagers on the Island is that of “surfers and druggies,” he said, and drug use and teenage sexual activity are major problems.

“We are dealing with them very well,” Dell told the board, “but it’s still a problem.”

Dell also said the Manatee County Tourist Development Council is interested in partnering with the Center, but the Center needs an updated Web site before the TDC can get involved.

That would cost the Center about $10,000, he said, but would allow links to the TDC and chamber of commerce, and provide updated information on the Center to those interested in scheduling a conference or planning a wedding reception.

Still, that’s $10,000 that the Center doesn’t have right now.

What it does have is a monthly mortgage in a down economy.

The arrival of winter visitors and residents will increase membership and revenues, Kelly said, but the Center still needs more donors, grants and endowment funds as revenue sources.

“The financial picture is OK, but we have to do better,” she concluded.

Anyone interested in donating to the Center, joining the board or a committee, or becoming a volunteer at the Center can call 941-778-1908.