Community center ‘ceases all operations’

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Children write and color March 18 while attending the Center of Anna Maria Island’s all-day camp. The center suspended some programs but not the camp, however, the announcement to close came March 21. Islander Photo: Ashley Friszman

COVID-19 forced a hard decision for leaders of the community center in Anna Maria.

Chris Culhane, executive director of the Center of Anna Maria Island, wrote in a March 17 community letter that the nonprofit suspended fitness, sports and wellness programs until further notice.

The nonprofit continued last week to run a camp for youth on spring break and kept the facility at 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria, open “in a very limited capacity,” according to Culhane.

That changed March 20, when the governor issued further restrictions on interactions and ordered the closure of fitness centers and gyms.

The center announced it would close in an email to members.

“This unprecedented order ceases all operations at the center effective immediately,” Culhane wrote March 20. “For the first time in our 60 years of existence, the center and our staff are not able to serve the community that we love. The center staff, management and board are heartbroken.”

He also wrote, “As the Center responds to our community’s needs during this unprecedented time, we ask that you retain your membership with us. Not as a facility member, but as a cause-driven member.”

The closure dims hope the nonprofit would pull out of the red before its fiscal year ends June 30.

The center lost $103,517 in income July 2019-January 2020, but board members and staff hoped to carry the momentum of a successful winter into spring. The nonprofit planned to profit $18,000 in March before canceling the annual Tour of Homes and postponing a rock ’n’ roll concert.

However, Culhane wrote March 19 in an email to The Islander that he expects a large donation soon, so the nonprofit may end the month in the black.

Regardless of the financial result, money took the backseat during a pandemic.

“We are committed to working safely and confidently as we move through and emerge from this health crisis together,” Culhane wrote.

People interested in contacting the center can visit its website, www.centerami.org.