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Manatee County Boys & Girls Club branch gets assist from homebuilder

BRADENTON -- The DeSoto Boys & Girls Club's second-story teen center was in bad shape.

"Quite dilapidated," said Valerie Nelson, the vice-president of development.

Not anymore.

Thanks to a $30,000 renovation donated by Lee Wetherington Homes and area contractors, some of whom once attended DeSoto themselves, the club's teen center now includes new walls, floors, ceiling and lighting along with new furnishings and four large flat screen TV's.

There will be a special 4 p.m. ceremony today dedicating the teen center in the homebuilder's name.

The public is invited.

"Over the summer, they completely gutted the old teen center right down to the two-by-fours," club di

rector Wendell Faison said. "We are incredibly grateful. We're sure this new space will draw in even more teens during the critical 3-7 p.m. hours."

Founded in 1967, the DeSoto branch of the Boys & Girls Club serves more than 200 children.

With 1,700 square feet and brightly painted blue and green walls, it will serve youngsters ages 13-17. It will feature a special area just for girls, another for boys, a large group area and a computer lab complete with new desks and chairs.

"This will be the best Boys & Girls Club teen center in the county," said Wetherington, a former club board member.

According to Nelson, the home builder heard about the club's needs and took a tour to see for himself.

"He literally said, 'I'm going to give these kids a new teen room,'" she said. "He didn't just say it. He put it into action."

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee County serves more than 4,600 children annually at six branches besides DeSoto, including Bradenton and Palmetto and school-based sites at Daughtrey Elementary, Harllee Middle, Johnson Middle and Southeast High School.

For information, call 761-2582 or visit

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix