The Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee County officially launched its Invest in Kids Campaign today as volunteers, staff, and local officials gathered for a firsthand look at plans to build a 41,000 square foot building to replace the current DeSoto Club facility located at 34th Street and 53rd Avenue in Bradenton. The campaign, with a goal of $7.5 million, will build a new Club and provide an endowment to sustain operations. To date, more than $4.4 million has been raised.

“As the Chairman of the Invest in Kids Campaign, I must tell you what an honor it is to share this moment with you all,” said local attorney Caleb Grimes, who heads the effort to build the new Club. “I am a product of the Boys & Girls Club and have many fond memories of my time there. We are excited to move ahead with plans to rebuild our DeSoto Club in order to help even more kids to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens for generations to come.

Construction of the new Club will begin sometime in the next 12 months, according to Dawn Stanhope, President & CEO of the organization. Plans include a modern, welcoming new campus-style building just east of where the current Club stands. There will be separate entrances for teens and younger school-aged children, with dedicated space inside to focus on academics, character & citizenship, and healthy lifestyles. After the building’s completion, the current building will be razed for future usage, not yet determined.

“The current site has served us well,” said Stanhope, “but the 50-year-old aging facility is now functionally obsolete. The new site will bring our program spaces into the 21st century, creating dynamic areas that invite kids to learn, grow, work together and most importantly – have fun! We will be able to serve nearly triple the amount of kids we serve now on a daily basis – up to 600 every day. Getting kids off of waiting lists and into the Clubs is important in our ability to further our mission. This building will be a shining example of our community’s commitment to children.”

Conceptual plans include an 18,500 square foot teen center, a learning center for homework help and other academic activities, and a commercial kitchen that will be used to not only provide healthy snacks to the members, but also serve as a culinary laboratory for a future Bobby Flay or Ina Garten. Once the design/build team has been chosen and work commences, the estimated time from pre-construction to completion will be 18 months. In the meantime, the existing Club will remain operational to avoid disruption of service.

Major donors to the project include local developer Patrick Neal and his wife, Charlene. The Neal’s gift of $1 million will underwrite a new sports/flex field. Other donors include the Deerbrook Charitable Trust, which has pledged a matching gift of up to $1 million. The Trust, headquartered in Chevy Chase, MD, has designated its gift in honor of retired Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee County President, Carl Weeks. In addition to the board’s 100% participation, over 70 staff members have contributed to the project to date – including many that work in other Club locations throughout the county.

“We still have a way to go to reach our goal, of course,” said Grimes. “But this project is vital to the youth of Manatee County. We have to expand our reach to serve those who need us most. The Clubs provide a safe, nurturing environment that can change the trajectory of a person’s life in a positive way. Invest in Kids is a must-do for the Boys & Girls Clubs and the community as a whole. Our children not only need a new Club, they deserve it.”

More information about the Invest in Kids Campaign click here or call Francine Diemer at 941-761-2582, option 5.

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