The Boys & Girls Club Teen Center in Poinciana is one place where kids can hang out and have fun — but there’s a waiting list for their services. (Photo by Michael Freeman).
POINCIANA – There are two excellent places in Poinciana for local kids and teens to utilize, said Keith Laytham.
“We’ve got very, very good programs that are offered for kids and young people,” Laytham said, citing in particular the Poinciana YMCA and the Boys and Girls Club Teen Center.
That’s the good news, he said.
The bad news, Laytham added, is that both of these fine institutions have a waiting list of kids who want to use them.
“What we’ve got in Poinciana is about 83,000 people,” Laytham said. “Today at the Boys and Girls Club Teen Center and the YMCA, they are both over-subscribed. They have more kids that want to get into them than the staff can handle. There’s about 150 kids at the Teen Center on a waiting list. So when you look at the size of the community, there’s not enough youth programs run by these organizations to meet our needs. There is a significant demand for more.”
Laytham is the president of the civic group Poinciana Residents For Smart Change, which is working behind the scenes to improve the community. The next PRSC meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 22 at Palmetto Elementary School. Laytham is encouraging everyone in the community to show up — and not just PRSC members — to discuss ways of enhancing the community’s recreational needs.
It’s not that this community of 10 villages cutting across Polk and Osceola counties, he said, lacks recreational opportunities now. There’s Vance Harmon Park with its new football field on the Osceola side, and Polk is opening a new park on that county’s side as well.
“We’ve got new parks coming on,” Laytham said. “We’re starting to get some more park facilities in the community, and we have great youth sports organizations. But like everything else of a community of this size, there’s not enough here to meet the demand.”
So Laytham is hoping the entire community rallies to this cause – and works to come up with a solution.
“The purpose of the meeting on Monday night is to come out of it with a group of residents looking to attack this problem,” he said. “We want to be looking at the problems facing the community and agreeing on how we can work with the community to address these problems and put together a plan to go after it.”
For one thing, Laytham wants the community to seek out federal funds that could be used to expand these programs.
“From what I have learned, we have the possibility of some federal funding for low income families, that Poinciana families from both Polk and Osceola might be able to qualify for,” he said – but the community needs to take the time to apply, he added.
“There’s funding for both counties for the year 2013,” he said. “Unfortunately, some of the money will be going elsewhere because other communities stepped up to the plate while Poinciana sat back and did nothing about it.”
He also wants the entire community to explore the option of getting a swimming pool built here.
“For a community made up of 83,000 persons, we have no public swimming facility that can be used by any of the high schools or middle schools in our area, not to mention the families of the community itself,” he said. “For a community with 83,000 people, and in the state of Florida with as much water as we have around here, it’s very important that we teach our kids how to swim. But none of our schools has a swimming pool or swimming teams. Why not Poinciana?”
What he wants now, Laytham said, is to put together an “army of volunteers” to address these challenges.
“We have some volunteers in the community with creative minds who have worked with state and local governments in the past to bring about community enhancements such as the (Poinciana Medical Center) hospital, Poinciana Parkway and the new village 7 sports park,” Laytham said. “One of the challenges that we’re facing is there are restrictions by both counties as far as who they can work with. Osceola can only work with Osceola non-profit organizations and Polk can only work with Polk non-profit organizations.”
That works in Poinciana, to some extent, Laytham said, because the YMCA is headquartered in Lakeland, while the Boys and Girls Club of Central Florida is based out of Orlando and Osceola County.
Still, Laytham added, “There’s a lot of Osceola kids who go to the YMCA, and a lot of Polk kids who go to the Boys and Girls Teen Center program. We have to see if we can meet the needs of both sides. That’s the objective of the meeting, to put together a community working group to come up with ways to improve the recreational and cultural opportunities in the community. This is not just for kids. Silver Sneakers, at the YMCA, is an exercise program for seniors.”
Monday’s meeting, he said, will be an opportunity to rally the community behind this case.
“It’s really not a speaker-type meeting,” Laytham said. “It’s a workshop-type meeting. This sounds like a challenge — but I’m seen this community step up to these challenges before. This will be an important meeting for everybody to attend who is interested in improving our community offerings for residents — kids through adults. Hopefully everybody will be able to attend and bring a neighbor or two?”

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