Anna Maria provides ongoing Center support

Anna Maria provides ongoing Center support
Seven-year-old Dylan Sato expressed his support for The Center while being held by Executive Director Chris Culhane as David Zaccagnino stood nearby. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

ANNA MARIA – In response to its annual funding request, The Center of Anna Maria Island will receive $21,000 from the city of Anna Maria.

Center officials sought $28,000, but during the Thursday, June 13, city commission meeting Mayor Dan Murphy recommended $21,000 instead. Murphy said that’s what remains in the city’s recreation fund for the current fiscal year.

The city’s contribution will help support The Center’s youth programs. There was some discussion about earmarking some of the money for senior programs, but that idea remains on hold for another year while those additional programs are developed.

When addressing the commission, Executive Director Chris Culhane introduced The Center’s new director of development, Jim McDaniel.

“He’s going to be a huge part of The Center moving forward,” Culhane said.

Culhane then reviewed the financial figures provided to the commission.

“We had a good year. In the past 18 months we’ve had a dramatic turnaround,” Culhane said.

“In addition to the significant revenue increase, we’ve also cut operating expenses by $120,000,” he said.

Culhane said fundraising increased by about $30,000, due in part to the new concert series The Center and the Manatee County Tourist Development Council initiated this year. Culhane said six more concerts are planned for the coming year.

“We’re not going to do anything outrageous,” Center board of directors’ chairman David Zaccagnino added. “As much as I like Van Halen, we’re not going to bring Van Halen out here.”

Zaccagnino addressed The Center’s current financial position and the financial challenges it faced in recent years.

“The numbers are fabulous, but this has been working with a skeleton crew for most of the year. We plan on hiring people,” Zaccagnino said, noting that Culhane’s former position, director of operations, still needs to be filled.

“We have 3,000 members. It’s not just kids anymore, it’s the whole gamut – people from four to 95. The confidence is back in the community. Two years ago, we were on the ropes and you gave us a chance,” Zaccagnino said.

He also noted that Anna Maria Elementary School is the only school in the county school system that doesn’t provide after-school care. He said The Center providing this service allows parents to continue working.

At one point, Culhane held seven-year-old Dylan Sato in his arms as the youngster expressed his support for The Center.

“Hi, my name is Dylan. I’ve been going to The Center ever since I was one. Last year I started playing, soccer, T-ball and I also watch my dad (Jason Sato) play sports,” he said, getting very emotional as he spoke.

“He’s a fourth generation Island resident,” Culhane added.

When recommending the $21,000 contribution, Murphy said, “You’re to be commended for what you’ve done, and I look forward to you doing more in the future.”

Commissioner Dale Woodland revisited an idea he’s proposed in the past as a potential means to address the Island’s changing demographics and shift toward a more tourist-oriented community. He suggested the Island’s real estate and vacation rental companies add a half-percent fee to their rental rates and donate that money to The Center. Their guests would then gain access to The Center in exchange.

“We’re working on that,” Zaccagnino said of those efforts that remain in a very early stage of development.

“You guys have done an outstanding job. You guys have really focused on turning around your financials,” Commission chair Brian Seymour said.

Seymour praised the concert series and said they provide an opportunity for people to get together and see each other again. The inaugural concert series included performances by The Marshall Tucker Band, The Outlaws B.J. Thomas and others.

“People talk about those concerts,” Seymour said.

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