Finances could shutter Anna Maria Island Community Center

Anna Maria Island Community Center under threat of closure due to financial troubles

acastillo@bradenton.comJune 9, 2014 

ANNA MARIA -- A small group of backpack-toting children Monday afternoon entered the Anna Maria Island Community Center. The Anna Maria Elementary School students, who are part of the center's after-school program, had just wrapped up their last day of school.

To celebrate, the AMICC had fun plans for the children, which included a bounce house and a showing of "Monsters University."

Despite the joyous mood, the center at 407 Magnolia Ave. in Anna Maria is experiencing enough financial trouble to possibly close its doors in a month.

Dawn Stiles, center executive director since 2013, said the AMICC has already received several donations and people in the community have called and sent suggestions on how to save money.

An anonymous donor has even promised to match donations up to $50,000 during the month of June, she said.

"It's really raised community awareness on several different levels -- and we're very optimistic," she said as she sat in her office Monday.

Established in 1960, the Anna Maria Island Community Center hosts programs for children, teens, adults and seniors. The center also provides counseling services through the Family Foundations Counseling Program.

According to Bay News 9, the center only has $60,000 left in its operating account, which is enough to stay open for one month.

"I can't imagine that the community would let that (closure) happen, but it's the reality," Stiles said, adding she hopes to raise about $700,000 to cover center expenses for a year and a half

or two.

Stiles said, after looking at financial statements from 2000 until 2007, the center made money.

"And then in 2008 -- which I understand is when the new building was completed -- from that year until now, the center has lost money in all but one year," Stiles said. The center generated a small surplus in 2010.

Factors connected to the center's losses include the troubled economy.

The center's new building "is larger so it costs more to insure... more to operate," Stiles said, adding there is also a mortgage on the two-story building.

On June 4, Stiles held a town hall meeting to discuss the center's financial struggle. Later in the week, the board of directors directed her to cut operational costs by $50,000 to $100,000 in the coming budget year, which begins July 1.

Neville Clarke, 72, has been affiliated with the Anna Maria Island Community Center 16 years. For the past decade, he's been a volunteer.

"I feel very much at home there because it has that small-town feeling to me," the Anna Maria resident said over the phone Monday. "I know people by name and they know me by name."

Clarke, who plays tennis at the center with other men his age, swings by almost every day. He fixes nets and screens -- and even brings worn tennis balls to local dog parks.

"I feel like when I work there, they really appreciate me," he said. "I feel like I'm contributing to something."

Program coordinator Sandee Pruett, who has worked at the center 15 years, described the AMICC as the "heartbeat of the island."

"There's been a lot of changes, trust me," she said. "But one thing is constant -- when people walk in that door, they are happy to be here."

Amaris Castillo, Law Enforcement/Island Reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. You can follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.

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