Rubonia Community Center, a pillar of the community, to reopen Monday

For Marian Mouzon, there are no words to express the fact that the doors of the closed Rubonia Community Center will be reopened Monday.

“It has been a long journey,” the 66-year-old Rubonia resident said. “It has been a long journey up until now. The people in the community have worked so hard for this day to come, wanting this day to come for that center to be back open. It is going to benefit the kids, the teens and the youth and the people in the community.”

The location of the center, 1309 72nd St. E., Rubonia, has always had a special meaning to the community, Mouzon said, adding as a child, she attended school there.

“I’m very excited about the center doors opening again, and for the community to be able to go back into the building,” said Mouzon, who changed her work schedule to be at the center’s reopening. “It is just going to be such a warming effect for the kids and the seniors who can benefit from the doors being open there.”

The Rubonia Community Association will run a Summer Youth Program at the center, which has been closed since 2013, beginning Monday until July 29. Nearly 60 children are expected to attend the program, which will provide both enrichment and extra-curricular activities. The center will officially reopen at 8:30 a.m. Monday.

“I’m overwhelmed with joy that we are going to be here,” said Morris Goff, summer program coordinator. “We got the turnout with the kids. We know seniors are looking to get back in here.”

Community center a ‘pillar’ in Rubonia

As a child, Mary Brown went to the school that sat where the community center is located today. The community center has always been the “thing that brought the group together as one,” the Rubonia Community Association chairwoman said.

“The community center brings back the focus of where we need to be and where I was years ago where I actually went to school,” Brown said. “It is a place for us that youth, the seniors, the adults to come together. I am really happy about it. I am lost for words.”

For Derrick Randall, who grew up in Rubonia, the community center was home.

“As a kid, the community center was kind of the center for the community,” the 37-year-old said. “It was the oasis because that’s where everyone went. All the dreams, all the realities, everything that ever was thought of or done in Rubonia came from the center. That’s where we did everything.”

While the community activities and gatherings never fully ceased during the center’s closure, the reopening brings the core of Rubonia back, Randall said.

“It is a monumental thing,” he said. “It is even more monumental for the county to recognize and contribute and be a part of the revitalization.”

Center to bring new life into Rubonia

The closed community center, as well as poor drainage and lack of sidewalks, have been among concerns of residents living in Rubonia, which is located off U.S. 41 between Palmetto and Interstate 275.

“The community has had this sadness about itself with the doors closed in the center, but now with the remodeling and upgrades and doors open for the little kids to run back into the center, no words can express that,” Mouzon said.

With the center closed, it was an adjustment for the Rubonia community, Randall said.

“When you lose your core, it is hard,” he said. “It is very hard. Now you have that core back.”

The community will be able to do some many things once the center is reopen, Randall said.

“It is a sense of ownership and sense of pride that brings with it,” he said. “These people are very proud people. Having something of their own, it just elevates that pride. This is our center. We are doing something positive.”

Future of Rubonia Community Center after summer

As of now, the center will cease operation at the conclusion of the summer program on July 29. But the Rubonia Community Association hopes to operate the center past the summer. The Rubonia community is already planning programs for the operation of the center into the fall but they need funds to make it possible so they’ve set up a GoFundMe page, gofundme.com/rubonia.

“This center is the heartbeat of Rubonia,” Goff said. “It has always been the heartbeat of the community.”

In order to make the summer program a reality, the county commission gave the Rubonia Community Association for $22,304 for the summer program, in addition to agreeing to spend $75,000 for the first phase of needed renovations at the center.

“You really surprised me,” Brown told Charlie Bishop, the county’s property management director, of the renovations at the center last week. “You exceeded expectations. You did it and you all took care of us. I love it.”

The county is planning to begin the second phase of renovations to the center in October, Bishop said.

“As soon as the money is in place, we will start the second phase,” Bishop said of the work, which will include replacement of the roof.

The entire Rubonia community will love the renovated center, Brown said.

“When they come in, even if they don’t say it, you can see it from their expression on face,” she said. “It is fantastic.”

Claire Aronson: 941-745-7024, @Claire_Aronson