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Center to get $250,000 in federal funds

BRADENTON — With a push from U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, the U.S. House approved a spending bill Thursday that includes $250,000 for a new community center next to Norma Lloyd Park.

The news of the funding came as officials sent out invitations to the ground-breaking ceremonies for the 13 | Av Dream Center, 922 24th St. E., at 3 p.m. Tuesday.

“This is truly a blessing for the community,” said Patrick Carnegie, executive director of United Community Centers, which runs the 13th Avenue and Rubonia community centers.

“I can’t say enough about the elected officials coming together to make all this happen,” Carnegie said.

He said the money will go toward the construction costs for the $1.8 million, 1,600-square-foot building, which will house classrooms, a gymnasium, art rooms and offices.

Castor, D-Tampa, whose district covers mostly Hillsborough County but also reaches down into a portion of Manatee County, said she was glad the spending bill was passed. After a companion bill is approved in the Senate, the legislation will go to President Obama for signing.

“This is a wonderful project,” the congresswoman said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C. “I pushed for the funding so that children and families in the neighborhood will have a safe haven.”

She said she worked with Manatee County Commission Chairwoman Gwen Brown in assessing the needs of the district, and “was very pleased that (the Dream Center) will focus on education, science, technology and recreation.

“We need more of these types of safe havens and fun places for kids to learn throughout the community,” Castor said.

Sherod Halliburton, executive director of the Bradenton Central Community Redevelopment Agency, said he was glad to see that “the Dream Center has enough importance to warrant federal dollars.”

The CCRA provided $400,000 toward the Dream Center’s construction, part of the $2.5 million in funding for the renovation of the Norma Lloyd Park.

The 13th Avenue Community Center, now at U.S 41 and 13th Avenue West, will be relocated just north of the park, and the CCRA will market the property for commercial use.

“With the Dream Center next to the park we make sure it will not be only passive activities,” Halliburton said. “The children can take full advantage of the park facilities.”

Carnegie said construction is expected to be completed by the end of February with programs starting in early spring.

The 13th Avenue Community Center has been operating for 70 years and discussions on relocation or renovations have been ongoing for about 12 years.

“The Dream Center is very important because (the 13th Avenue West center) has always been a center of the community,” Carnegie said.

He said the center’s motto was “Build Dreams, Change Lives.”

“We are working hard to raise the bar,” Carnegie said. “We have the ability to affect the lives of people in the community.”