Center ends 2017 on a high note

Center fishing camp
Participants in the Center’s youth fishing summer camp learned how to catch a fish on the Anna Maria City Pier mere weeks before Hurricane Irma damaged the landmark and canceled late summer camps. - Kristin Swain | Sun

ANNA MARIA – It was a year of ups and downs for The Center of Anna Maria Island with the nonprofit ultimately coming out on top in higher membership and participation rates with renewed interest from the community, despite ongoing financial concerns.

Board upset

Discontent on the board and strained relations with the Island communities resulted in several board members resigning from their posts. In the wake of several resignations, including former board member Bill Schuman leaving the post of chair, though he didn’t retire from the board until December, Patti McBean temporarily became chair. McBean left the board amidst rumors of threats and financial concerns after less than two weeks as chair. Newly-minted board member David Zaccagnino agreed to take on the mantle of chairman. With another long-time board member, Treasurer Jim Froeschle, joining Schuman in resigning in December, the remaining board continues the search for new members.

Island Fitness merger

One bright spot for the Center is the November merger between the nonprofit and former adversary Island Fitness. Brenda Canning and staff moved into the second-floor fitness center space as former board member Shawn Kaleta moved out the fitness equipment he leased at the Center over the Thanksgiving holiday. Canning said the move had been well received from her members. Center Executive Director Kristen Lessig said the move also has been beneficial for the nonprofit through increased membership and better relations with the community.

Financial crisis and government support

For a while in 2017, it looked at least from the outside like the Center might not make it to see the New Year, at least not without heavy financial support. The organization closed out the 2016 fiscal year June 30 more than $200,000 in debt. Financial turmoil led to lowered government support. To help alleviate the financial strain, board members voted in late June to withdraw funds from the unrestricted endowment fund to provide operating reserves. The restricted endowment fund remains intact. During the November board meeting, board members remained hopeful the Island cities will provide some financial assistance before the close of the fiscal year.

Participation rates increase

The 2017 calendar year saw membership rates increase at the Center along with participation in youth and adult sports. With about 100 children participating, the nonprofit’s flag football season set a record for the number of players in a single season. Lessig said she’s seen some former members who had parted ways with the Center return in the wake of managerial-instituted changes and community relations improvements. Though participation rates were up in summer camps, late summer camps suffered from lower participation rates and cancellations due to a highly active tropical season. Lessig and Zaccagnino both said they hope for continued increases in sports and memberships through the winter season.