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City, SYSA to Expand Youth Programs through Public-Private Partnership

Donations Will Add New Community Center Near Legion Field and the Theophalis May Resource Center

The City of Pensacola and the Southern Youth Sports Association have partnered to expand programming for Escambia County youth through the new Rafferty Center, which will provide recreational and educational opportunities to hundreds of local youth.

Community Leaders are Partnering to Provide Recreational and Educational Opportunities to Hundreds of Local Youth
Community Leaders are Partnering to Provide Recreational and Educational Opportunities to Hundreds of Local Youth

The Rafferty Center will be constructed alongside Legion Field and the Theophalis May Resource Center and funded primarily through a $1 million donation from Troy and Ashley Rafferty along with other private donations. “"rough generous private donations like this, the City of Pensacola will be able to expand our facility in ways we would not have been able to fund without the community support,” Mayor Grover Robinson said. “I am very grateful for the support of Commissioner Lumon May, Councilman Delarian Wiggins, Troy and Ashley Rafferty, and all of our private donors who are making this project possible. Together, we will be able to enhance the programming and services for our youth, providing even more opportunities for our children to build strong minds and bodies.”

Additional private contributions to this project were made by Doug Baldwin, Jim and Shirley Cronley, the late Fred Levin, Mike Papantonio and other associates of Levin Papantonio Rafferty Law Firm. Thanks to a bill filed by Rep. Alex Andrade and supported by Rep. Michelle Salzman, Rep. Jayer Williamson and Sen. Doug Broxson, the State of Florida has also committed at least $150,000 to the project.

The Southern Youth Sports Association, or SYSA, is a grassroots nonprofit organization that provides educational, recreational, athletic and cultural opportunities for children in the Escambia County community. SYSA offers basketball, cheerleading, baseball, football, tutoring, after-school programs and GED programs, currently serving approximately 800 youth ages 4-17.

“This will help us expand our capacity to help more children,” said Escambia County District 3 Commissioner Lumon May, who is also the co-founder and director of SYSA. “We need to enlarge our footprint because we don’t have the capacity in terms of buildings to do the services that we want to do.”

Mayor Robinson, Commissioner May, and other local leaders joined together to announce the expansion on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which May said was #tting for a community project such as this one.

“Dr. King always talked about the dream and the hope for tomorrow and hope for the future,” Commissioner May said. “Most of the children we work with are disenfranchised, and this partnership was launched to give them hope and opportunity for the future."

Commissioner May said SYSA will be working over the next 30-60 days to raise the remaining funds needed before moving the project forward.

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