On Thursday, September 28, over 100 guests gathered at the Louis and Gloria Flanzer Boys & Girls Club in Arcadia to celebrate the completion of the permanent Clubhouse; an addition of 10,000 square feet to the Louis & Gloria Flanzer Boys & Girls Club on the Smith Brown Campus that will expand youth development programs in DeSoto County.
The recently completed state-of-the-art Clubhouse features new classrooms, a technology lab, an art studio, a commercial teaching kitchen, a food pantry for local families, and a multipurpose dining space. The facility will also be available for local use outside of the Club’s operating hours making it a viable community asset. While the expansion brings innovative opportunities to Arcadia’s future leaders in a modern, up-to-date facility, the facility also incorporates tributes to the historic significance of the Smith Brown Recreation Center and local trailblazers, including Coach Richard Bowers.
The evening kicked off with a reception in the Peace River Citrus Products Health & Fitness Center where Club member, Joi. R., a fifth-grader at Memorial Elementary led everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance. President/ CEO Bill Sadlo then welcomed and thanked the many supporters who were instrumental in bringing the vision to life saying; “thanks to the generosity of our many supporters like the Louis and Gloria Philanthropic Trust, we are able to provide the youth of Arcadia with a modern facility to match their infinite potential and meet the needs of this growing community for many years to come.”
Sadlo then turned it over to outgoing Board Chair, Meghan O. Serrano, Esq., who provided commentary on her tenure as Board Chair and expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to serve and advocate for an organization she values so dearly. Later, Meghan was presented with a Board Chair Award before turning it over to Marshal Quinn Jones for the installation of the 2023 -24 Board Officers; Ken Freeman, Chair and David Arch, Chair-Elect.
Following the installation, Sadlo welcomed Jim Clark, President and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of America to the stage who offered his perspective on the organization serving as a “beacon of hope” for youth in communities like Arcadia. Clark emphasized the importance of community support in raising children in today’s world stating; “There’s no one program or initiative to make it happen. It’s a combination. It's everyone coming together to create those great futures.” Clark continued; “we provide them with great programs and enrichment to ensure they are on track for a successful life. That’s the hope and opportunity that exists at Boys & Girls Clubs.”
Clark concluded with; “there is one other factor that is super important. … It should not matter where you live or what zip code you reside in to define your future. What matters is where you are going. “the Boys & Girls Clubs …(is) the great equalizer. Boys & Girls Clubs changes that dynamic for kids and levels the playing field. It’s all about access. Access to the same experiences and opportunities that some get and others don’t. Boys & Girls Clubs ensures those kids get those experiences.”
Guests were invited outside for the official ribbon-cutting. Among those present were key supporters, community leaders, and visionaries who played a vital role in the project including Dr. Dean Hautamaki and Eric Kaplan, Co-Trustees of the Louis & Gloria Flanzer Trust. Hautamaki shared his sentiments on the moment’s significance noting how incredible the impact had already been in just a few years, saying… “everyone today has already expressed their thoughts on the importance of raising children for the future and giving them every opportunity on an equal playing field…… this is an incredible place that is transforming what is already an incredible place; Arcadia, Florida and DeSoto County. I think Gloria (Flanzer) is smiling upon us right now knowing her wishes will be transformational for generations to come by providing opportunities to succeed and live fulfilling lives.”
Kaplan then noted how he didn’t have access to Boys & Girls Clubs where he grew up and knew nothing about it. It wasn’t until after Gloria’s passing when a business acquaintance recommended he take a tour that he discovered it. Kaplan expressed feeling like they had finally found the perfect place to fulfill Gloria’s philanthropic wishes and went on to share a special memory from the Health & Fitness Center dedication saying; “a young boy came up to me and said thank you. I asked him how he liked the place and he looked right at me and said, I didn’t think we deserved this. I told him, everybody deserves an opportunity and this is yours so go use it and enjoy it. Come here every day. Learn from the people around you.” Kaplan later concluded with… “I hope that’s what people do when they come through these doors. They will become better for it. I know Dean and I are better for getting to know the people of the Arcadia community and Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties.”
Guests were then welcomed inside for tours led by member “Tour Ambassadors” who proudly showcased each of the Club’s new rooms including; the art room, tech room, power hour homework & reading room, a culinary kitchen, and a cafeteria. The evening concluded shortly after with light bites and refreshments.
This fall, the final phase of construction will commence to transform the former temporary Club into The Club Teen Center named The Malcolm Family Teen Center. The Club will be equipped with new technology and furnishings and will offer innovative programming with opportunities for teens to collaborate with like-minded peers in leadership development, improve critical skills, explore career paths, and make plans for success after high school graduation.
To date, the organization has raised over $5 million from private donors, foundations, and community partners. Key capital supporters include; A+ Environmental Restoration, Alico Inc, Judith Ammerman Brielmaier, Bucket Fillers, Louis and Gloria Flanzer Philanthropic Trust,Hollingsworth Family, Keith D. Monda Family, William G. and Marie Selby Foundation, Sun Bulb Company, James M. Doss Foundation, and The Mosaic Company. Lead construction partners include Halfacre Construction, PGT Innovations, and Hoyt Architects.
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