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PinkCricket kids arts center may get a lifeline

Olivia Mastro, 7, hugs summer camp teacher Cody Maurer at the PinkCricket Center for Arts Education on Thursday.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

Olivia Mastro, 7, hugs summer camp teacher Cody Maurer at the PinkCricket Center for Arts Education on Thursday.

When the PinkCricket, an arts center for children, opened in August 2009, it became so popular it quickly outgrew its quarters at 534 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg.

So imagine the dismay of parents and the arts community when the directors of the center announced last week they would probably have to close at the end of the summer.

"We opened the Cricket with no startup funding and no furniture," said executive director Sara Turner, 31, whose stage name was PinkMeanie. "It was getting harder and harder to keep it going."

"We made the decision several weeks ago that for personal and financial reasons, we may need to close," said deputy director Jennifer Brendel-Howell, 33, whose nickname since high school is Cricket.

But the reaction to the announcement of possible closure has given the directors — who have not taken a salary since they opened — new hope for the fledgling center.

They are planning fundraisers and applying for grants. They also are seeking nonprofit status and hope to increase enrollment for the fall after-school program.

"Considering they're the only organization out there doing what they do, it's really indicative of the growth in the arts community," said Andy Orrell, director of marketing at American Stage.

Orrell has two children in the program.

The center already has a key ally in George K. Rahdert, a lawyer and major downtown landowner. When it outgrew its original quarters, Rahdert helped the directors move into a 4,600-square-foot space in the Kress Building at 475 Central Ave. in June.

How will the PinkCricket measure success?

"Our goal is to have 50 families for the after-school program," said Turner, who added that the center is currently taking enrollment.

With few creative options for children in a burgeoning arts community, few would argue that the PinkCricket has staying power here.

• • •

The McDonald's restaurant at 1661 Fourth St. S in St. Petersburg is offering delivery service, but don't expect employees to pull up in your driveway any time soon.

This new service, which started in May, is for businesses only.

"This is the only store in St. Petersburg or the county that is offering delivery services," said Felicia Owens, one of the store's managers. Seven stores in Tampa also deliver.

Worldwide, McDonald's serves more than 47 million walk-in customers daily, so why start a delivery service?

Simple, said Gilly Garcia, delivery coordinator for Caspers Co., owner of 52 McDonald's in Tampa and St. Petersburg. "Managers at the stores started noticing large orders coming in for breakfast and lunch from area businesses."

One of them was the Fourth Street S store, a few blocks from Bayfront Medical Center, All Children's Hospital and many doctors' offices.

"Since it's near a large hospital, we figured that would be a good location," said Garcia.

Orders can be placed online at mcdonalds2u.com, where visitors choose the closest restaurant, then order from a menu. Delivery is available from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. There is a $7 delivery fee.

Sandra J. Gadsden is assistant metro editor, community news. She can be reached at sgadsden@sptimes.com or at (727) 893-8874.

PinkCricket kids arts center may get a lifeline 07/17/10 [Last modified: Friday, July 16, 2010 7:45pm]

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