This daggone COVID-19 has taken a lot of things from us.

The most serious loss, of course, has been the loss of lives. And the inability to spend time with family members quarantined in nursing homes or hospitals has been excruciating for many.

On the less serious — but very much missed — side is a list of activities we all used to get us through the monotony of everyday life. The things we looked forward to for a little entertainment, a chance to let loose, an opportunity to spend time with others in a festive atmosphere.

Few places are a better example of that than the nearly abandoned Cultural Center of Charlotte County. Normally a hotbed of activity and a place so many retirees and others could go for some company or a chance to take a class, play some cards, eat a meal ... the center has taken a bit of a hit from this coronavirus.

Currently there are no card games. Classes have all been canceled. The cafe, which saw fewer and fewer diners recently, has closed temporarily. Only the thrift shop shows any sign of activity. It’s open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays.

The inactivity has hurt the nonprofit to the point that K. Stephen Carter, executive director and CEO, has had to think outside the box to raise some money.

One of the casualties has been the popular concert series that offered shows featuring some of the best talent in Southwest Florida in the auditorium — almost weekly in season and several times during the summer, too. Many of us surely enjoyed those shows. I was even lucky enough to get to emcee a couple of them.

Last week, Carter announced what he hopes will be a semi-replacement for those performances.

He’s scheduled three outdoor concerts in the center’s parking lot. Starting Aug. 21, patrons can pull into the lot and enjoy musical performances that will put on a two-hour show from a temporary stage.

You can get out of the car, as long as you social distance, and dance a little bit. Or you can even listen to the music on your FM radio.

“It will be a nice, safe environment,” Carter said, adding that about 200 cars can be parked in the lot.

The first show, 7 p.m. Aug. 21, features No Filter, a “lively dance band” from the Tampa area.

The very popular Goldtones will offer their doo-wop music on Sept. 11, also at 7 p.m.

Closing out the limited series will be Robert Holifield and his Motown review show on Oct. 17. Holifield, who lives in Punta Gorda and is related to the former heavyweight champ Evander (only spelling his name different), has had roles in movies like “Rocky II” and “Creed” but is better known as a singer and musician.

Carter says each show costs $20 per person, but, the third and fourth person in a car get in for $10 each.

He’s hoping the shows and the putting contest scheduled for Aug. 22 will help the center get on its financial feet.

The putting contest seeks to replenish the money lost when an annual golf tournament fundraiser was canceled. Golfers will have an opportunity to make a putt from 10 feet, then 20 feet and 30 feet, and if they make all three they can win $10,000 (money paid through an insurance policy — not from any depleted center account). If more than one golfer makes all three putts, the winner will be decided by a 50-foot putt.

Sounds like Carter’s creative thinking can inject a little much-needed cash into the center’s coffers. We hope so. The Cultural Center is an institution in Charlotte County and deserves our support.


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