Groups may team up to reopen Rubonia Community Center

skennedy@bradenton.comOctober 11, 2012 

MANATEE -- Two groups want to help in reopening the shuttered Rubonia Community Center: its current management and a local community association, according to a "white paper" written by Manatee County staff members.

Services can be restored to the center, which sits in the tiny community of Rubonia, north of Palmetto, according to the draft report provided this week to the Manatee County Commission.

Budget problems forced the center, at 1309 72nd St. E., to close Aug. 16. About 12-15 children who had attended its after-school pro

gram were transferred to other centers.

It has been managed more than 18 years by a nonprofit organization, the United Community Centers Inc., in conjunction with the county; the organization also owns and operates the newly constructed Dream Center at Norma Lloyd Park in Bradenton.

The Rubonia Community Association has also expressed a desire to help with the Rubonia center's operation, the report said. Association members are residents of Rubonia, and want to add both adult classes and efforts to mentor young people.

The "well-formed local group" has "the potential to manage some services at the Center, but lacks the financial resources to maintain the insurance and maintenance costs required for such a facility," it said.

It suggests that the United Community Centers' management, led by Patrick Carnegie, draw up a lease agreement with association members to provide volunteer services from 7-9 p.m., two or three days a week.

The report also recommended programs be added for adults, such as Meals on Wheels; adult health, nutrition and exercise classes; literacy classes, as well as activities on its ballfields six days a week.

The Rubonia center would require a $70,000 grant to reopen, and operate from Oct. 15 to June 15, the report said. A summer program would cost an additional $30,000, it said.

Carnegie, president and chief executive officer of United Community Centers, cited budget difficulties and too few requests for after-school services after the center abruptly closed last summer, the Herald reported at the time.

Tuesday, Carnegie said he had been talking to service providers to develop a comprehensive program that would hopefully come to fruition within the next 30 days. "We're trying to put together a good plan," he said.

Part of the difficulty of planning new programs at the center stems from recent demographic shifts in the area, the report said.

"The average age of the residents in the area has shifted from a younger population to a larger group of persons 60 years and older," the report said.

The association's chairman, Charles Miller, expressed relief to "have it back on the right track."

Also looking forward to a functioning center is Manatee County Commissioner Robin DiSabatino.

"I know we've all been working real hard to get service back in Rubonia, and we're looking forward to the adults and children getting back in there," she said.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.com.

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