Center supporters celebrate 'groundbreaking'
Gray clouds hung overhead and the night's downpour dampened the morning, but Pierrette Kelly's face brightened as she observed the festivities on the grounds of the Anna Maria Island Community Center Nov. 16.
"A wonderful Irish day," the Center's executive director said.
Construction workers started work on the new community center more than two months ago, but the groundbreaking celebration took place only last week, delayed until the arrival of some seasonal visitors.
On the tennis courts, with a view of the construction work taking place, dozens of Center staff and supporters gathered for speeches and a ceremonial scooping of dirt.
The Center has existed on the Island in some form for about 46 years. Board chair Andy Price, addressing the audience at the ceremony, recalled going to the Center as a child in the 1960s.
"I grew up in that community center," Price said, adding that he learned to swim and play games at the Center. "That community center really formed my life.
Price praised the volunteer spirit at the Center and he stressed the role the Center plays in his adult life and in the lives of his family members.
"This has been a long time coming," Price said, praising Kelly and Stewart and Trudy Moon, the capital campaign co-chairs. "It was a long process. We began back in 2000 .... And we're here today."
Stewart Moon, in turn, praised Price. "Andy kind of brought us to a point and said, let's do it."
Moon also paid tribute to the community support that made the construction project possible.
Outgoing Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore and newly elected Anna Maria City Mayor Fran Barford addressed the audience, both referring to the significant impact the Center has had on Island youth.
Whitmore said the Center's been a part of her life and her daughter's life. "I believe strongly ... that we have to give our kids someplace to go, something to do," she said. "I believe this is going to be a wonderful thing."
Barford said, "We are so proud to have the community center in our city."
The mayor then read the Center's mission, while Kelly, standing off to the side, mouthed the words to a statement she's memorized.
"I want to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart," Kelly later said.
She introduced to the audience four youths anxious for the Center's completion - Jake Parsons, Emma Terry, Heather Howard and Sean Pittman.
"Everyone who works there takes time for us to learn," Emma told the crowd.
"I pretty much grew up at the Center," said Heather.
Center supporters applauded the youths, as well as cheered the design team and the construction crew.
Center officials expect the new facility to open in the summer of 2007. Still, more than $2 million must be raised for the capital campaign.
While construction continues, the Center's programs are taking place off-site, coordinated from a trailer at St. Bernard Catholic Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive, Holmes Beach.