Rubonia children to have place to go this summer despite closed community center

RUBONIA -- Despite a closed Rubonia Community Center, the children of Rubonia may have a place to go this summer after all.

After reading about Rubonia's plight in the Bradenton Herald, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee County wanted to help.

The nonprofit is offering a temporary fix to the closed center by offering supervised summer programs for Rubonia children between the ages of 5 and 17. The children will be transported daily to and from the Palmetto Boys & Girls Club for the summer program.

Beth Work, vice president of operations for Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee County, said the residents' concern about lack of summer programs for the children "jumped out" when she read the Herald story.

"There is no program," Work said. "What are these kids going to do in the summer? There is nothing there for them right now."

In the county's current budget, $70,000 had been allocated to provide services for the children of Rubonia in partnership with another agency. But when an agency withdrew its proposal, the money was put in the Children's Services reserve funds.

On Wednesday, Work presented a proposal to the Children's Services Advisory Board. The county commission could authorize the agreement between the county and Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee County for the children of Rubonia at its Tuesday meeting. The county would pay $30,601 for the program.

"We wanted to help and ask for funding to add additional staff at the Palmetto club to make it a free program for kids," Work said.

Up to 50 children will be able to register for the free summer program, which will run from June 15 through Aug. 14.

The programming will be age appropriate, Work said. There will be field trips, computer classes, arts and crafts, gym and a game room. For the older children, there will also be a career camp.

"Our three focuses are academic success, healthy

lifestyles and good character and citizenship," Work said. "We want to focus on that. ...We want to keep kids on track."

While the Boys and Girls Clubs summer program is only a temporary solution, County Administrator Ed Hunzeker has said the county is planning to negotiate with agencies seeking to take over the Rubonia community center, which closed in 2013. At least $133,300 in repairs are needed, but Hunzeker said they want to make sure an organization wants to take over the building before the repairs are recommended.

"We are just really glad that we can help with the summer and anything that we can do to help moving forward," Work said. "I just really want an opportunity for those kids to be able to be safe during the summer."

Commissioner Charles Smith, who has family in Rubonia, welcomed the idea.

"Anything to get children off the streets during the summer will be a blessing," Smith said. "Every child should be off the streets during the summer in an organized program. With school being out, it will be a place for children to go in a safe environment and hopefully learn something that is educational."

To register for the summer program, the Boys & Girls Club of Manatee County will host a free barbecue on the grounds of the Rubonia Community Center from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 6. If unable to attend, registration is open at the Palmetto Boys & Girls Club, 1600 10th St. W., Palmetto.

Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.

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