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Migrant housing in Bradenton gets touch-ups, new purpose

BRADENTON -- Flecks of white paint zigzagged across Steve Herda’s hands and arms Thursday morning.

Herda, a property manager for First Bank, joined coworkers in painting an aging migrant house on Ninth Avenue West for the Children’s Academy of Southwest Florida.

Herda used the spray gun to cover the house in pristine white paint while other First Bank employees painted the doors and trims.

Ten First Bank employees took time out of their workday to do the backbreaking work as music blared from their boom box. But they said the work was all for a good cause: the children.

“We’ve pressure-washed the building,” Herda said. “Now we’re applying what will probably be the first coat.”

The Children’s Academy of Southwest Florida acquired the six small migrant houses to fulfill the vision of Executive Director Geraldine Pasquarella.

The migrant houses and neighboring homes and apartments sit on three acres that will one day connect to her 26th Avenue site, Pasquarella said.

“This is going to be a complex,” she said. “We are focused on intellectual learning.”

Each of the six buildings will have a designated use -- a parent center, meetings for outdoor activities, cooking demonstrations, a movement center, a computer/special learning facility and a site for art.

“All this will be connected by walkways,” Pasquarella said.

Different companies sponsored the houses, including Publix which sponsored the house that will be used to teach cooking demonstrations.

Pasquarella said First Bank’s house will be used as a movement center with dance, judo, karate and different types of physical fitness classes.

Ann Lee, retail banking president with First Bank, said sponsoring one of the houses is a part of her bank’s community efforts.

“I love to paint. I love to help the community. It’s fun combining the two,” said First Bank’s Customer Service Manager Joann Baker.