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Boys & Girls Club plans next stop

Its summer program in temporary quarters, the Carrollwood club looks to JCC for a yearlong stay.

By TIM GRANT, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 21, 2002


CARROLLWOOD -- The Boys & Girls Club is negotiating to move into the Jewish Community Center while it looks for a permanent home.

The club, which had been operating from the Plantation of Carrollwood until recently, could finalize a deal and move into the Gunn Highway facility by the time school starts in the fall.

Boys & Girls Club president Roy Opfer said he is about three weeks away from making an announcement, but an agreement is in the works.

"The JCC is a United Way partner agency whose mission is compatible with ours," Opfer said, adding that the Boys & Girls Club primarily serves low-income families.

One of the issues being considered is how to reduce the cost of the JCC after-school program. The JCC fees are substantially higher than any Boys & Girls Club program in Hillsborough County.

The same families who got after-school care at the Plantation of Carrollwood for $45 to $65 a month might balk at the JCC fees, which range from $380 a month for year-round care to $150 a month for children who attend only two days a week.

Steve Brownstein, JCC program director, would not comment on specifics of the proposed merger.

"We're discussing that right now. Our agreement has not been finalized," he said.

But Opfer seemed optimistic about the possibility of reducing fees. "We don't want to make assumptions about rates and what it's going to cost our parents," he said. "We are not going to compromise our mission" to serve children, particularly those with disadvantaged backgrounds.

The Boys & Girls Club ended its three-year partnership with Plantation when school ended in May, largely because last year, neighbors voted against building a permanent club facility in the neighborhood.

During its time in Plantation, the Boys & Girls Club operated out of one large portable building in Plantation's common area.

The nonprofit organization moved its summer program to Cannella Elementary School while officers negotiate to buy land in Carrollwood for a permanent building. In the meantime, Opfer hopes to operate the program at the JCC this school year.The recreational facilities at JCC are nice, situated on a large educational complex on 22 acres east of the Veterans Expressway.

"We have all kinds of sports facilities available," said Trudy Chleboski, director of the JCC Second Home After School program. The campus offers a large swimming pool, a fitness room and areas for racquetball, basketball, soccer, archery, badminton and volleyball.

Chleboski said there is a large indoor area for dodgeball and kickball. There's also a drama stage, an arts and crafts room and billiards. One of the counselors even teaches golf, she said.

Best of all, the student-counselor ratio at the JCC is 12-1, which is half the county's required ratio of 25-1.

"We have a wonderful after-school program," she said.

Tom Jones, the property manager for Plantation of Carrollwood, played a key role in starting the Boys & Girls Club program in the development.

He predicts that the fee discrepancy will be a huge hurdle, especially if JCC parents are asked to pay higher rates for the same service that Boys & Girls Club parents receive.

"There will be a lot of people who are not too compromising or charitable," Jones said. "I hope they can cross the hurdles and continue to have a Boys & Girls Club in this area. I think it's a great program."

-- Tim Grant can be reached 269-5311 or at grant@sptimes.com.

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