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After 11 Years and Feeling “Unwelcome,” Boys & Girls Club Is Quitting Carver Gym

| July 28, 2010

Last days for the Boys & Girls Club at Carver Gym. (© FlaglerLive)

In a move that should not come as a surprise to anyone who’s followed the Carver Gym controversy since May, the Boys & Girls Club will be leaving the gym by Oct. 1 after 11 years in the South Bunnell facility—and 11 years of feeling “unwelcome” there, the Boys & Girls Club’s Joe Sullivan said today.

The board of directors of the Volusia-Flagler Boys & Girls Club met on July 21 and voted unanimously to pull out of Carver. The previous day, the Flagler County Board of Education approved an agreement to lease the club, for $1 a year, an art room, a music room and a small gym at Rymfire Elementary, where the club will run its program for 48 weeks a year from 2 to 7 p.m. on school days and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays when school is not in session.

School Superintendent Janet Valentine said the lease was agreed to separately from the club’s issues at Carver Gym. “It wasn’t in lieu of that, as far as I knew,” Valentine said. But the club has already sent in its 60-day notice of vacating Carver. The notice went to the Flagler County Commission and the Bunnell city government.

Sullivan, the club’s chief professional officer, cited many issues that left the club with little reason to stay at Carver. The club has a program at Bunnell Elementary, less than a mile from Carver Gym. And the facility at Rymfire will be serving a school population of around 1,500 where the majority is on free or reduced meal assistance, meaning there’s a great need there for free and extra social activities for children.

Just as clearly, the club is leaving because the community around Carver Gym either does not want the club there or doesn’t support the structured ways the club runs its program.

Joe sullivan boys and girls club flagler volusia counties president

Joe Sullivan (© FlaglerLive)

“For the entire time we have been in operation at Carver,” Sullivan wrote in a memo to Bunnell and county government officials, “ we have been unable to have the same impact on youth that we have at our other eight clubs,” seven of which are in Volusia County. “Sharing space with another program that does not share our goals and expectations was difficult because they allow the youth to come and go as they please without and do what they want.  (Sic.) Having a safe place is important but it is our mission to make sure that our members are getting the help they need with academics and character development that will help them to graduate high school and give them the qualities necessary to become caring and responsible citizens, leaders and taxpayers.  The open door that allowed youth to come and go, do what they want with little to no structured activities did not allow us to provide them what they needed as long as they could always go downstairs to the gym, shoot hoops and do what they wanted.”

“Miss them?” Rev. Frank Giddens, who’s led the opposition to the gym closing–or being turned over to the Boys & Girls Club, said after hearing of the club leaving, Wednesday afternoon. “You want to know the truth of that? My answer is no, because ever since they’ve been here they’ve been trying to take over the gym. So every year or every two years, they’d try to take the gym away, and we don’t need the harassing on their part like that. If they stayed here they’re going to try again.”

The Boys & Girls Club’s  presence at Carver Gym became a flash point after county commissioners in June said it wanted to close the gym for good, to save the $117,000 a year it pays to keep the gym open. About half the money goes to two salaried positions for county employees who run what’s essentially South Bunnell’s community center. Community members protested. The county backed down somewhat, especially after the letter it circulated to the school board and the Bunnell City Commission, seeking alternatives, showed both governments eager to keep the gym open.

When Bunnell’s vice mayor, Jenny Crain-Brady, called an invitation-only meeting to discuss possibilities on July 8, the only non-government agency she invited was the Boys & Girls Club. Crain-Brady’s notion was to have Bunnell buy back the gym from the county over four years and install the Boys & Girls Club as the agency in charge (along with the Bunnell Police Department occupying other parts of the gym). The South Bunnell community reacted angrily—to being excluded from the discussion as well as to the suggestion that the Boys & Girls Club might take over. The community started small protests at government meetings to speak its displeasure.

That was enough for the Boys & Girls Club. “The Boys & Girls Club saw the Carver Community as a place that we needed to be,”  Sullivan wrote in his memo. “At the same time we understand the emotional attachment of the neighborhood to the Carver Community Center and not wanting to have it given up to an outside entity.  We tried our best to provide the kids what they need but under the current circumstances we have been unable to make a difference and establish a strong Club.”

Sullivan visited Carver Gym with WNZF’s Terry Turner and a new Boys & Girls Club board member Wednesday afternoon–at the same time that Giddens was there, in another part of the gym, along with Chris Borgmann, who’s also helped lead the opposition. The two sides didn’t cross paths.

“My next move,” Giddens said, “is make sure the gym stays open, on the county. Like I said at the beginning, we want it to remain as is, on the Board of County Commission. Operate it like it’s been operating. The Board of County Commission has the money. If they don’t have it, they know how to get the money.”

Bunnell's got talent: the Boys & Girls Club at Bunnell Elementary. (© FlaglerLive)

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9 Responses for “After 11 Years and Feeling “Unwelcome,” Boys & Girls Club Is Quitting Carver Gym”

  1. Colleen Conklin says:

    This is just terrible. I can’t say I blame the Boys and Girls Club for leaving. Regardless of what happens the children need a structured safe environment. That means you can’t have it both ways. You can’t have kids and more importantly teens coming in and doing what they want when they want. Hangin’ out side and around the corner dealing. That’s not fair to the other kids. The center should have rules and if you brake those rules you lose the priviledge even if it is only for a day or two. But our kids deserve more. I sure hope Rev. Giddens ensures that the programming they deserve. Our kids can do more than play hoops. You should expect way more than that and that is all they have going on right now!

  2. kmedley says:

    I applaud the Boys and Girls Club in giving those that oppose their help with Carver Gym the proverbial finger. The County should cut off the funding and quit pouring taxpayer dollars into a money pit. Both the City and the County have tried to come up with alternatives only to be met with resistance. Those that are insistent the gym remains open should form their own administrative group and handle the gym without any assistance from the county or city. Let them raise the funds to fix the gym. Let them set the rules and provide what they invision for the kids. In other words, do it yourself.

  3. Truth Traveler says:

    With the Boys and Girls Club leaving the Gym, I don’t believe school board funds should help support it. The school board’s input obviously isn’t wanted. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. If the school board is to support the gym financially, by all means they should have some control over what their funds supply for the children. The activities on the gym’s grounds is not the type activity the school board would sponsor.

    I do believe the Carver Gym needs to stay open, but not without structure and strict rules for the children that come on the grounds. There is so much that could be done for the children there. The Boys and Girls Club had a great plan, but did not get cooperation. The parties that did not want them there need to come up with a plan that the sponsoring government bodies are willing to support and employees at the gym need to make sure the plan is carried out.

  4. Truth Traveler says:

    no edit button : “The activities on the gym’s grounds are not the type activities…”

  5. Scholar Me Bad says:

    Now that the Boys and Girls Club will be leaving the building, The City and the County will both get a chance to see just how concern this community really is.
    Again I say to all of you who opposed the Boys and Girls Club and it’s structured programs it time to put your money were your mouth is, it’s time put up or shut the hell up, it’s time to walk that walk all you fine folks in Bunnell have been saying you will do.

    Like in so many other Urban communities in this country the people who will be most affected by this move will be your kids who actually loved being active members of the Boy’s and Girls Club.
    and for this I think you all should be ashamed of yourselves for being so selfish and insensitive to the needs of your children.
    Again I am no way the scholar like some you all want people deem you as being, but I would much rather have my kids in a structured, secure enviroment than walking the streets aimlessly.
    This community has just failed your children for life.
    You all had your meeting and not one person thought to get the thought or feelings of the youth. just a bunch of grown misinformed and some uneducated peolpe sitting in a room throwing out their views around.
    the truth is this was never about the Kids, this has always been about to people fighting to keep their jobs and the rest this community got behind them because they live in the community. if this would have been two people form another ethnic group in this same situation none of you fine folks would not have been so passionate about this.
    History shows we as black can give less than d@mn about anything unless it personlly affects us or a family member (for example little Ray Ray getting shot by white cop, or little Pooky and them being harrassed for standing in front a store with a No Loitering sign posted in clear view) this is when want to go to the news papers and to the city commision meetings
    Crap happen around us each and every day that we don’t have any clue about until its to late.
    We as black citizens need to stop this foolish way of life. Get informed, be apart the solution, and not the problem.
    Become an active Citizens of the community instead Second Class Angry Person on the street.
    Again this have fun and entertaining, we must do this again sometime, and can someone tell Mr. LOL and wife I said Whatup folk

  6. elaygee says:

    In year, there won’t be one unbroken window in Carver and weeds will be growing inside on the floor and that’s the best case scenario. Community, you broke it now you fix it.

  7. starfyre says:

    who cares

  8. Ometries Giddens says:

    The carver gym has been a place to feel at home. We as bunnell kids have not always been welcome at other recreation sites around flagler county. The carver gym helped with what alot of kids needed most, love was there. So many children that were in need of meals recieved it there. There were many different private programs that gave us things that are priceless self respect,dignity, but most of all we do not have to feel left out because of our color. We could be ourselves, no pretending. Yes,the girls and boys club sounded good but i witnessed first hand in their actions not to belittle anyone, but they did not care,it was a job to them. Glad and proud to say we have the best there now with the world’s greastest as their back bone (Rev. Giddens). I truly feel blessed to have the Carver gym as part of my life.

  9. ryan says:

    This is not surprising. Most places in Palm Coast, thanks to the big city social mindset, make people feel very unwelcome here. Must be the Jersey Shore style attitude of ” If you don’t like it, get the f out of my shop.”

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