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YWCA building's new role includes kids

Kids World, an outreach program of Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater, will move into the former YWCA.

Since 1954, the sprawling YWCA building on Lincoln Avenue has been a haven for children and teenagers.

Even though it was sold late last month, it will continue to be just that.

The 14,000-square-foot building where hundreds of local youngsters attended summer camp, Y-Teen meetings and weekend dances will soon become home to Kids World, an outreach program of Calvary Baptist Church.

John and Brenda Grampsas, who will run Kids World, toured the building recently and marveled at its relatively good condition and space.

"The big room, it will be for the elementary school kids," Brenda Grampsas said. "Back here in this room, there's a stage. It will be for the younger kids. I can't wait to start filling them."

According to a Pinellas County deed, Accento Craft Inc., a Tarpon Springs company that assembles and distributes artwork to retailers nationwide, bought the building from the YWCA for about $480,000.

John Grampsas said Calvary will lease the building from Accento for $10 a year. Joe Cotton, the principal owner of Accento, is a deacon at Calvary and a longtime supporter of the church's Kids World program. He could not be reached for comment.

Recently, Kids World operated out of the old Capitol Theater, owned by Accento. The theater is across Osceola Avenue from the downtown church. Cotton recently sold the theater to a local group that plans to refurbish it for community productions.

Kids World, on hiatus for the summer, is attended by about 300 youngsters each Saturday during the school year. Volunteers driving church buses pick up the children at their homes.

At the center, there is upbeat Christian music, spiritual lessons and games. Brenda Grampsas said specially trained counselors are available to talk with youngsters facing problems.

The former YWCA facility will allow the program to expand, she said. The building has a kitchen for preparing and serving snacks, numerous meeting rooms, a playground and outside courts for basketball and volleyball. A locker room will become a teen center, she said.

John Grampsas said he is prepared to operate Kids World on an annual budget of $175,000. The church will contribute a portion of that amount, he said. The rest will come from donations.

Until some of the necessary money can be raised, Kids World will continue to operate only Saturdays during the school year and one afternoon each week after school. John Grampsas said he hopes to add additional after-school hours when money and volunteers permit. Anyone wishing to participate can reach Grampsas at 418-8507. Next summer, Kids World will offer a summer camp, he said.

The YWCA, meanwhile, expects to reopen soon.

"We are not moving out of Clearwater," said spokeswoman Judy Wood Ganisin. "We have a commitment to the community."

The YWCA now offers schooling in conjunction with the Pinellas County school system for pregnant teenagers.

"We are downsizing so we can put more of our resources into our programs," she said. "We are real excited about Calvary coming in. We think it is a wonderful match for this building."

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