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'Angel' puts wings around youth club

A retired lawyer is part of the movement to expand the organization to Beverly Hills.

By MOISES MENDOZA
Published June 12, 2006


BEVERLY HILLS - Citrus County Boys & Girls Clubs executive director Lori Pender calls Harvey Gerber a "guardian angel," someone who would do anything for Citrus County's youth.

As the county ages, Gerber, a 58-year-old retired lawyer, is focused on the young - namely giving them places to hang out, to have fun and learn a bit about helping others.

Now, the nonprofit company he helped start is helping the Boys & Girls Clubs expand into Beverly Hills.

The new unit on Roosevelt Boulevard will cost nearly $600,000 to build. Although $350,000 of that will come from a U.S. Department of Agriculture rural development loan, the Nature Coast Affordable Housing Corp. is shelling out more than $200,000.

About $40,000 in additional funding comes from Florida Low Income Housing Associates and fundraisers put on by the Central Ridge Unit Steering Committee, the nine person group coordinating the building of the center.

The Nature Coast affordable housing company is far from your average corporation. Started in 2003 and run by Gerber and three associates, it contracts with licensed builders to build houses cheaply, then sell them.

Its goal is purely philanthropic: to provide area residents affordable housing and to raise money for the Boys & Girls Clubs, Gerber said.

In 2005, the corporation sold four houses and this year it plans to sell two. Once that's done, with a goal of Thanksgiving, ground can be broken on the Boys & Girls Clubs center, which would be the fourth such club in Citrus County.

"This will give hundreds and hundreds of students in Beverly Hills a place to go," Gerber said. "Right now, they don't have that."

But it will cost $170,000 per year to keep the center open once it's built, Pender said.

"We'll be begging for funding from big corporations and people," Pender said. "That unit becomes part of our budget so the dollars will come from different grants and other sources."

And Pender hopes one of those sources might continue to be Gerber. While he's not yet officially part of the Boys & Girls Clubs, Pender hopes to get him on the organization's board.

"He's hooked into the need for youth programming in our community," Pender said. "Never in my time with the Boys & Girls Clubs have I seen someone who has given of himself as much as he has."

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Moises Mendoza can be reached at mmendoza@sptimes.com or 860-7337.

[Last modified June 12, 2006, 08:04:51]


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