By JIMMY PETERS

Arcadian Hometown Editor

When I walked through the door of the Louis and Gloria Flanzer Boys & Girls Club, I was immediately bombarded with the happy shouts of energetic kids. Three young boys were huddled around a computer, a group of girls danced to a program on the television, and others were standing around the bumper pool table just talking about things young kids talk about. The teachers and volunteers were interacting with the children, some dancing to the music, some just talking, others giving hugs when needed.

In short, this was one place giving off positive and happy vibes.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County began operating this facility in July 2018 and started providing children, ages 6 to 11, with year-round programs that help them excel in school, become leaders and adopt healthy habits. Children also receive healthy meals and snacks and foster meaningful relationships with peers and trusted mentors. The Club is currently serving at maximum capacity with nearly 75 children participating in programs each day. However, there is on average, 50 children on the waiting list.

Sofia Gilot has been the Arcadia Club’s director since its inception. It’s been my experience that the attitude of any organization is a reflection of its leaders. Sofia’s concern for the program and love of the children is apparent not only in her, but is mirrored by the staff and volunteers.

“We currently have two teachers on board, and three youth development professionals, each one being in charge of 25 kids. We also have a front-desk professional, and two junior staff volunteers,” said Sofia.

During the school year, children from Memorial, West and Nocatee Elementary schools are bused to the location, where counselors walk to the drop-off point and escort the kids to the facility. The after-school program runs from 2-6 p.m. and each child gets a snack before going home.

In summer months the program offers a variety of enrichment programs, as well as learning opportunities that help children avoid the summer slide. Fieldtrips are planned as an extra program. Lunch and snacks are included in the afternoon. Yearly membership is $10.

Sofia Gilot eagerly explained that, “I’m a product of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County, and I love what I do. I know each member of the staff feels the same.”

The Louis and Gloria Flanzer Philanthropic Trust has provided Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County with a lead gift to expand the organization’s sixth Boys & Girls Club location at 14 School Ave. in Arcadia. With authorization from Eric Kaplan and Dean Hautamaki, co-trustees of the Louis and Gloria Flanzer Philanthropic Trust, the site will be named the Louis and Gloria Flanzer Boys & Girls Club.

Kaplan, who also sits on the board of directors at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County, said, “We are excited with this important new initiative to help the children and families of Arcadia. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County is a top-notch organization. We encourage residents and businesses of the Suncoast region to support the important need for social services to all of our friends and neighbors.”

Earlier this year, the city of Arcadia transferred the lease of the Smith-Brown Recreation Center that sits adjacent to the building to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County. The goal is to transform the structure into a multi-purpose gym with designated space for physical activities, project-based learning and healthy education that further fosters a child’s development. The facility will also be available for community use outside of the club’s operating hours, and will become a valuable community asset.

“We are honored to have a Boys & Girls Club on the Smith-Brown campus,” said Bill Sadlo, president/CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County. “This lead gift from the Flanzer Philanthropic Trust will allow our organization to serve more deserving youth in Arcadia and expand our current slate of programmatic opportunities.”

Arcadia council members on July 16 unanimously approved the organization’s plans for renovation, which will include tributes to the Smith-Brown’s historic and cultural impact on the community, as well as local trailblazers such as Coach Richard Bowers.

Other key partners of this expansion project include The Gardener Foundation, Bill and Mary Ann Becker, Peace River Citrus Products, Inc., the James M. Doss Foundation and Janice S. Kelly Memorial Foundation.

As I talked to Sofia and her staff, I realize that when people know they are accomplishing something important like helping shape young minds and bodies, it’s natural they develop a passion for what they do.

And it shows.

At a Glance

Arcadia Boys & Girls Club

14 School Ave.,

www.bgcsarasota.com, 941-366-3911, 863-884-9927

Sofia Gilot, Club director

Summer program: M-F; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

School-year program: M-F; 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Fees: $10/year

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