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This old schoolhouse: Does anyone know? Does anyone care?

April 16, 2014
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

To the editor:

The second school on Fort Myers Beach is located at 175 Sterling St. It was built in 1936 and since 1950 has been the Fort Myers Beach Woman's Club.

It's a grand old building with a wonderful history. The building has been on the waiting list for a Historical Building designation since 2004. Does anyone know? Does anyone care?

Over the last 60 years or so, the Woman's Club has remained true to its mission statement: "to promote and foster recreational, social and educational activities of its members and to promote civic and community welfare." Over the years, through our fundraisers we have been able to give away many thousands of dollars by supporting Beach Elemantary, Beach Library, Beach Camp for Kids, school lunch program and many more. At one time we were the largest non-profit organization on the Beach, having well over 100 members. Does anyone know? Does anyone care?

In recent years the costs of maintaining the building and grounds has risen dramatically. Insurance premiums, water, electricity, lawn care and repairs combined with declining membership have taken their toll on our bank account. Does anyone know? Does anyone care?

The windows are jalousie type and, after almost 70 years, need replacing. Many do not close all the way allowing the elements in, others have old rubber hanging from the windows. In order to replace them they must be up to code which means "hurricane proof" (even though we've never had a broken window from a storm) Cost: More than $25,000. Does anyone know? Does anyone care?

Squirrels have taken up residency in the insulation by chewing through the old soffit on the corners of the building. The cost of getting rid of these unwelcome visitors is several hundred dollars. Does anyone know? Does anyone care?

Over the last year and a half, the code enforcement of the Fire Department has found several non-conforming issues and has given us a time frame to comply. So far the cost of these has been about $2,000, and we still have to add special railings to old porches at the cost of another $2,000. Does anyone know? Does anyone care?

We have had an estimate of $800 to trim our palms. We have had no new landscaping done for about 15 years. We used to have a well and a sprinkling system, but they haven't been working for years. What used to be a nice grassy area is now weeds. Does anyone know? Does anyone care?

Two years ago a leak in the kitchen ceiling caused by blowing rain through a badly repaired soffit required a new ceiling, paint, etc. The cost: several hundred dollars. Earlier this year, a leak under the sink required the new flooring to be taken up, the sub flooring replaced and flooring put down again. Cost: close to $1,000. The code enforcers from the Fire Department found faulty wiring, which added to the expense of bringing the building up to code.

Our major fund raisers are: The Tour of Homes, Style Show and Flea Market. In the past we have been able to generously support the organizations of our choice on the Beach and surrounding areas. However, with the expenses for maintenance on "This Old Schoolhouse," we haven't been able to support them as we had previously. If anyone needs a write-off for 2014, please remember, "Charity begins at home."

We would like to know how to get grants and special funding for these projects; any help along these lines would be greatly appreciated.

We have updated the restrooms and kitchens and painted the interior so it would be a wonderful place to hold meetings, have receptions and catered events. There is plenty of parking and the grounds would accommodate car shows, exhibitions and perhaps a farmer's market. The location at mid-island can't be beat.

The Clubhouse is open on Tuesdays and Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. On Fridays, anyone interested in bridge can play, six hands, change partners, for five rounds. Call ahead to make sure you have a table. Men are always welcome. Our membership has several men members. In the past ACBL, which is a duplicate bridge group that plays for master points, played every Saturday. We understand Bonita has about 300 duplicate players twice a week. Does anyone know how to start such a Club again? The leaders here just had to retire after many years of success.

If you need any further information, please call me at 765-9790. I hope you care like we care! Thank you!

Helen Bradfish

Fort Myers Beach Woman's Club



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