For 10-year-old Cheyenne McDuffie, the Rubonia Community Center is a place to go.
“I want to leave it open,” she said. “I need somewhere to go, and I can come here and they give us food and stuff.”
As the Rubonia summer program came to an end Friday, Cheyenne, who will be starting fifth grade at Tillman Elementary, gets out of school before her mother gets off work. Last year, she went to day care after school but this year the Rubonia resident hopes to be able to come to the community center.
“You can do a lot of activities, watch movies, read books, go outside, go in arts and crafts room, talk to friends,” Cheyenne said Friday.
About 60 children regularly attended the six-week summer program run by the Rubonia Community Association. Now the summer program has ended, the center at 1309 72nd St. E., Rubonia, will cease operation but the county hopes to reopen the center by Oct. 1.
“It is absolutely making sure these children and our seniors have a place to go,” said Morris Goff, Rubonia summer program coordinator. “That’s my satisfaction, seeing those happy faces that the doors are open here. This is the heart of the community. When it closed down, you saw us fighting and crying. It was like walking through a desert with no place to go. I give us a positive outlook.”
Funds are allocated for Rubonia Community Center programming and the second phase of renovations in the county’s proposed 2016-17 budget. If the $125,000 is approved when the Manatee County Commission votes on the budget Sept. 15, additional repairs will take place so the center can be reopen this fall.
“If the budget can be approved, the center will reopen for a year lease with the county and the programs can continue,” said Cheri Coryea, county neighborhood services director.
The Rubonia Community Association is putting together a business plan for operation and a fundraising plan so they can be considered for taking over the property in the future, Coryea said.
“They are working on that,” she said. “We would be wanting to see that come together by early 2017. They are trying to pull together to really have an operation that is viable and that can be sustainable.”
A group of residents from Terra Ceia have been volunteering to assist the Rubonia Community Association — by volunteering at the center and collecting donations in Terra Ceia to benefit the Rubonia community. On Friday, the women helped prepare lunch for children in the summer program.
“I think it is a good cause,” said Kandee Steigner, who has been volunteering Mondays at the center. “The community needs this for seniors and children.”
Rubonia Community Association will speak at the Terra Ceia Village Improvement Association meeting Thursday to find additional ways to assist moving forward, according to Wren Brady, president of the Terra Ceia association.
“Rubonia is part of us,” she said. “We drive through Rubonia. We are tied together. It is great to see finally something is being done here. ... I want the county commission to know their money is doing great work here and it can do more.”
Thirteen-year-old Rubonia resident Azaviam Gay said he hopes the center will remain open because “it is fun here.”
“It is just a place for all the kids to go when on break and can learn at same time,” he said.
For Amari Davis, 7, the games were her favorite part of the summer program. The Parrish resident said she also learned manners.
“When you eat, don’t eat with your mouth open,” she said.