The Coastal Star

Boca Raton: Children’s Museum gets repair, exhibit money

By Sallie James

    The Boca Raton Children’s Museum will get essential roof and window repairs along with a structural assessment under a recently approved agreement with the city.
    City Council members in January approved $50,000 for building repairs and $30,000 for exhibit enhancements. The funding will allow the popular museum to continue serving thousands of children in a quaint venue that promotes hands-on learning.
    Florence Fuller Child Development Centers, a Boca Raton-based nonprofit organization, took over the struggling 35-year-old entity in September 2014.
    An estimated 20,000 people visit the museum, at 498 Crawford Blvd., annually, according to Ellyn Okrent, CEO of the Florence Fuller centers.
    “It is a gem in our community. It really is an opportunity to keep this beautiful campus here in the heart of Boca Raton,” Okrent said. “To lose this and let those beautiful buildings fall apart would just be criminal. It’s a very special place.”
    Funding for repairs is sorely needed. The $50,000 will cover absolute necessities.
    “It’s terrible. I’m not talking about cosmetic repairs. I’m talking about very serious repairs,” Okrent said. “The buildings have not been maintained.”
    The Children’s Museum occupies three buildings, two of which are owned by the city. One of the buildings, Singing Pines, was built in 1913 and is the city’s oldest building.
    Of the money allocated to the museum, $30,000 is earmarked for exhibit enhancements.
    Okrent said the museum is partnering with Publix to create a water table exhibit that will illustrate the importance of water in life. This science, technology, engineering and math project will be interactive.
    The museum is also seeking a sponsor to help create a health-related exhibit aimed at kids.
    Meanwhile, a “once upon a time” story tent is being installed in Singing Pines.
    Okrent said money for the museum will always be an issue.
    Okrent said her organization will have to raise an additional $300,000 to cover the museum’s annual budget. That’s on top of the $1.7 million already needed to cover its own annual budget, she said.
    Florence Fuller Child Development Centers took over museum operations in late 2014 after museum officials told the City Council the museum would run out of money in late April 2014 because donations and grants had been sparse.
    A “wine carnival” fundraiser is scheduled for March 10 at the museum; a “hero walk” is planned for mid-April. More details on both fundraisers will be available at a later date.

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