AVON PARK — Soon after the school day ends, school buses arrive at the Avon Park Boys & Girls Club in the City of Avon Park’s Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center.
First its snack time for about 70 to 85 children in grades one through high school who are at the club about four hours a day after school.
After snack time, it’s time for the club’s staff to present the various components that keeps kids active and learning: Smart Moves is the say “no” to drugs and bullying curriculum, Triple Play is the physical education component with stretching, running, basketball, etc. and Healthy Habits includes the food pyramid and making smart diet decisions.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Highlands County Area Director Dave Cornuet, who has been on job about 60 days, said people often wonder who pays to support the club.
There is no charge to parents/children so most of the financial support comes from grants and the community, he said.
“I am trying to get the community more and more involved,” Cornuet said. Grants come and go so he wants to build a stronger base within the community.
The club has a strong program for first-grade through middle school children, plus a small teen program they are building, with about 10 to 12 students, he said.
“They come here on their own; they are not forced; they spend four or five hours with us; they are educated; we get them academically and athletically involved in things; we try to get them in the community when we can,” Cornuet said. “It is a wonderful, wonderful program that doesn’t cost the parent a dime.”
The football field, big track and indoor basketball court are huge places for the kids to play, he said.
He will be going before the City Council at its meeting on Monday to seek the city’s continued support.
“They are very, very supportive of our program; they have done nothing but offer things to us, but it is really not to us, it is to the community,” Cornuet said. “We want this center to be a community center like it used to be. We want it to be offered to the kids and families of Avon Park.”
About a year and a half ago, when the Highlands Club was struggling, the Sarasota Boys & Girls Clubs provided assistance and stabilized the local club, he said. The agreement with the Sarasota Club ends Dec. 31.
The Sarasota Club and some of its requests had caused a bit of friction in the local Avon Park community.
In July, the City of Avon Park was hoping to work out issues with the Boys & Girls Club because there were concerns of a possible breach of contract of the provisions in the contract between the city and club, which will expire in November 2019.
At the June 11 City Council meeting, some residents called for the city to take over the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center, which is being leased from the city by the Boys & Girls Club, and also take over the recreation programs.