Community, parents seek long-term help for club


Published: Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 6:24 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 6:24 p.m.

Concerned residents are rallying to find long-term solutions to keep the postponed suspension of operations at the Rotary Southeast Boys & Girls Club on hold forever.

Facts

Barbecue fundraiser

What: The East Gainesville Advocacy Coalition for Children will be selling barbecue chicken dinners to benefit the Rotary Southeast Boys & Girls Club.

When: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Feb. 4.

Where: Southeast club, 1100 SE 17th Drive.

Cost: $10.

Information: Call coalition president Patsy Legette at 352-278-0221 or club director Tammy Jackson at 352-372-1458.

Close to 30 people attended an unofficial advisory board meeting Monday night at the club, with everyone in attendance vowing to serve on one of four committees — building, scholarship, fundraising and public relations.

The board will meet again at 6 p.m. on Feb. 7, and every other Monday after that, at the club.

One of the first things the board wants to do is increase the enrollment of paid members at the club, and it hit the ground running.

The board, co-chaired by the Rev. Dr. Geraldine McClellan, pastor of Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church, and local businessman Eldred Lewis, raised more than $1,000 in less than 30 minutes to sponsor 20 scholarships to pay for children to attend the club.

The list of 20 children whose parents have committed to sending them to the club was presented to the board by Patsy Legette, president of the recently formed East Gainesville Advocacy Coalition for Children. Soon afterward, people in the room dug deep into their wallets and purses to raise the money to sponsor the children.

The coalition and the board will work closely together, keeping each other abreast of what the other is doing to maximize their effectiveness.

The coalition was formed after learning about the planned suspension of operations. Plans then began to establish an advisory board with no policy-making decisions after begin encouraged by Aaron "Bean" McGlon, a former director at the club.

McGlon, interim director of the Sun Coast Boys & Girls Club of Pinellas County, was in town for one of the earlier meetings.

"We fought too hard to get it here to let it go like that," McGlon said that night. "I'm pleading to you as a community to save the Southeast Boys & Girls Club."

It appears McGlon might not have much to worry about because McClellan told the committees Monday night to get started on their work right away.

"The work we need to do doesn't start at the next meeting, it starts when we leave here tonight," McClellan said.

Members of the unofficial board include Mickey Rawls, a Gainesville Allstate insurance agent; Pastor Eugene Garvin, senior co-pastor of Agape Faith Center; licensed Realtors Davonda Brown and Davin "Flip" Woody; residents Valeria Robinson and Angela Holmes and others.

Charles Goston, publisher of Black College Today; Clovis Watson Jr., a former city manager and chief of police in Alachua; and Charlie Jackson, the Alachua County facilities manager, also attended the meeting and pledged to support the board in any way they can.

Operations at the club were scheduled to be suspended Tuesday because the Boys & Girls Club of Alachua County has been hit hard by the economic downturn the last couple of years, in addition to a significant decrease in donations and the elimination and reduction of several grants, said Keith Blanchard, president and chief professional officer of the organization.

He said other factors that led to the decision to suspend operations included dwindling enrollment and the cost to operate the club.

He decided to grant a four-month reprieve from the suspension of operations earlier this month after Lee Pinkoson, chairman of the Alachua County Commission, and Edwin Dix, a developer and club alumnus, pledged to donate $37,000 and $12,000 to the club, respectively.

Numerous people have pledged to go through a background check so they can serve in an official capacity on a club advisory board. Once the background checks come back in several weeks and the board becomes official, it will be able to set up a bank account and be formally recognized by the countywide board.

Although the board is not an official entity yet, it has agreed that its top priority is to make much-needed repairs to the building, especially the gym, which needs a new floor, heating and cooling system and other repairs.

Dix volunteered to be chairman of the building committee. He said with the help of others on the committee and people he knows in the building industry, he is sure the renovations will be made.

Tammy Jackson, director of the club, gave the board a list of things the club needs, such as, new computers and software, a printer, sports equipment, board games and educational materials.

For more information or to make donations, call McClellan at 352-372-4872 or Lewis at 352-256-6739.

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