Florida Keys News
Saturday, February 4, 2012
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Locals keep donating lunch money
Funding cut reversal doesn't ebb flow of donations to nonprofit

Once the word got out that the Boys Girls Clubs had been left in a $6,000 summer lunch-money lurch by the Monroe County School District, the locals came calling.

"Dan, I hope you get your lunches back!" a Conch Train Tour passenger yelled to the nonprofit's executive director, Dan Dombroski, while he was out and about one day. A local radio station also offered support, then a Key West bank started a fund "to feed the children" that began at $1,700.

"My first reaction was, I got to get $6,000 that I don't have right now," said Dombroski, who has run the nonprofit for nine years.

The campaign started after school administrators canceled its annual contribution to provide a pre-made sandwich, fruit and milk for more than 100 kids in the Boys & Girls Clubs summer camp. The district typically ponies up money for five of the 10 weeks and the nonprofit pays for the rest.

In a tough budget season, the district limited its own summer school, along with lunches for the nonprofit. Within days of The Citizen's story detailing the cut, Superintendent Jesus Jara reversed the decision, however. Dombroski appeared before the School Board at its Jan. 24 meeting to thank Jara and the district.

"The School District did the right thing; I wanted to thank him," Dombroski said.

Dombroski also wrote letters to two donors -- one who gave $1,000, the other $500 -- offering to return the checks they had sent before the district reinstated the lunches. On Wednesday, Dombroski still hadn't heard from anyone asking for their money back.

First State Bank of the Florida Keys also is following through with a campaign it launched.

"Our goal is $6,000," said Don Lanman, the bank's senior vice president and marketing director. "That's breakfast, lunch and snacks. We're moving forward with a fervor. We'll probably have different kinds of fundraisers. We're reaching out Keyswide."

The bank is still accepting cash donations at any of its 11 Keys branches for the Boys/Girls Clubs Lunch Money Account.

"It's a 10-week program," Lanman said. "Five weeks (still) need to be funded. Really, the school is a partner here, too. This is just another example of our community coming together to help a local program."

The Boys & Girls Clubs, which runs on an annual budget of $520,000, can use the extra help, said Dombroski, who had to lay off one full-time employee and is dealing with about $50,000 less funding than last year.

"We're down big-time with money," Dombroski said. "We're trying to survive, too."

Jara said he was happy to work out the lunches with the nonprofit.

"I just think it was a miscommunication," Jara said, adding that Dombroski could have come to him directly rather than talk to the newspaper. "There are options and ways of doing it. We still have to offer lunch to the students."

Dombroski said Food Services Director Meri-de Mercado's Jan. 11 email was straight forward and didn't appear to be open for negotiation. "We will not be able to sponsor your program as we did last year," it said. Two weeks later, Mercado resigned after 13 years, effective Feb. 29. On Wednesday, Mercado said she is leaving the district for a better job managing a local physician's office.

Her district job recently included running three departments: purchasing, Medicaid and food services, for $77,214 a year. "It's just a lot of work," Mercado said. "It seems to be a good time to take this opportunity."

gfilosa@keysnews.com

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