Remember the Past….Look to the future

A History of the Dunedin Youth Guild by Eileen Engblom [1986]

Perhaps it is due to the changing patterns in community social structure and life style, but records and memorabilia seem increasingly difficult to preserve. Records of large organizations and businesses are being preserved through the use of microfilm [etc.], but the history of smaller units of social-local organizations and individual families-seem frequently to be lost in just the mechanics of everyday life and due to a lack of storage space.
For just that reason I have been asked by the Dunedin Youth Guild to detail the origin, development and first service projects of the Dunedin Youth Guild.
Organized on March 16, 1964 and incorporated on Sept 9, 1964, the DYG was not the brainstorm of any one individual, but evolved from another organization – the Dunedin Youth Center Auxiliary, known locally as DYCA. That organization was formed to meet the need for increased voluntary service and financial support for the youth center inaugurated in 1946. In that year, Mrs. Elizabeth Skinner Jackson, daughter of one of Dunedin’s founding families, responded to the needs of the children of the city and donated a house and property on which it stood, as a memorial to her father, Lee B. Skinner. In less than ten years it became obvious that the small building housing the Lee B. Skinner Youth Center was inadequate for the large numbers of youngsters attending and a building fund drive was begun for the construction of a new, modern building. Adults and children united in the fund-raising and construction. Women volunteers organized the DYCA to raise funds. Noted lecturer and author Norman Vincent Peale donated tow lectures locally, as fund raisers. Children initiated the Block Selling drive. The new Lee B. Skinner Youth Center was started in November 1955 and dedicate on April 8, 1956. Always presented to give assistance when needed was the DYCA, which raised funds for improvements such as ventilation system, new floor, trampoline, plumbing, folding chairs and recreational supplies. With the 1960’s brought a decline in attendance, a decline in community support and left the DYCA with funds but nowhere to spend them as all the expenditures were, by virtue of its charter, limited to the youth center. So, the DYCA also became a victim of the “tumultuous sixties”.
By that time Dunedin was growing by leaps and bounds! Three schools had been constructed; Dunedin High School, being the last, an 18 acre park purchased and all were in need of assistance.
After weeks of deliberation, the DYCA disbanded in 1964 and immediately reorganized as the Dunedin Youth Guild for the purpose of serving the youth of Dunedin and furthering the civic and cultural progress of greater Dunedin. All funds on hand were given to the youth center and the DYG turned to see where it was most needed.
While the DYCA was primarily a fund-raising organization, its offspring, the DYG, divided its efforts between service and fund raising but the idea of aiding the youth of Dunedin, begun by Mrs. Jackson over forty years ago continues with the Dunedin Youth Guild.
With no funds except memberships, our first efforts were “putting our shoulders to the wheel” where needed. We helped the high school Dad’s Club raise funds for the stadium. We sponsored a miss Junior Dunedin Pageant and Ball during the Dunedin Youth Festival and later supplied uniforms for the girls’ softball teams.
Then an opportunity arose which seemed to fit right in with all the goals of the Guild. Two tracts of land, the Kerr Tract and the Fisher Tract, were offered for purchase by the city for a park; this when added to the Otten Tract, would give the city 134 acres of continuous park land. The Fisher Tract included the ball fields and concession stand which the late Judge Fisher had permitted the city to place on his property in his lifetime.
With this opportunity, the approximately 50 members of the Dunedin Youth Guild went to work, circulating petitions and newspapers and bending the ear of every resident who would listen. AND LISTEN THEY DID! Responding to the overflow crowds at commission meetings, the City Commission voted to purchase the Kerr Tract and was later able to acquire a government grant to assist in the purchase of the Fisher Tract. Within four months the first three pieces of playground equipment were purchased and installed in the Kerr Tract adjacent to Fisher field by the Dunedin Youth Guild. These items were a six-swing set and safety strap seats, a horizontal ladder and a wave stride, at the cost of $381.39. The next year that playground was completed with the purchase of a slide and merry-go-round at the cost of $612.55. Those prices are difficult to believe today but we selected what was considered to be the best quality available and all still standing and in good condition until 2008. We selected the area adjacent to the ball part for our first playground, thinking that the siblings and families of little league-ers would make the area a place for regular family outings.
That same year a door-to-door city recreational survey was conducted by the Guild and membership contributed towards a slide projector for the Council or organizations. In addition to donating to the Youth festival, the club entered a float. Dunedin Jaycees and Jaycettes joined us in equipping the park. Due to area-wide publicity, the Guild was offered equipment by a firm in Tampa for the cost of removing it and transporting it to Dunedin. So with the expenditure of an additional $25, the Guild had completed three separate playgrounds containing approximately $2,000 worth of equipment by 1966. A very proud Dunedin Youth Guild accepted a Citation from the National Recreation and Park association at the May 24, 1966 meeting.
[1967-1968]Giving assistance to the Parks and Recreation Department became an ongoing project as a shelter for the Virginia Street tennis courts and pool was provided. A summer nature study program was started in the Hammock and summer scholarship for the St. Petersburg Science Center as well as the Dunedin Summer Study Program was initiated. Not to be forgotten, however, was the Lee B. Skinner Youth Center as the Guild appropriated over $1000 for tools, craft materials and curtains as well as lighting for a children’s theater. A major service project was the week-long cleanup, plant-up week sponsored by the Beautification Committee with the DYG as Chairman. With youth assistance, vacant lots were cleared, windows washed, the bleachers at Grant Field (FL Auto Exchange Stadium) painted, Cedar Creek tributaries in the Hammock cleaned of debris, Fisher Field concession stand painted and even Dunedin Beach was cleaned. Funds were contributed to send the high school band to the Orange Bowl.
Becoming “substitute mothers” of children of working mothers who could not visit them during the day at the hospital, Guild members spent many hours reading to patients at Mease Hospital. A donation of $500 to the hospital purchased pediatric playroom equipment and a library cart filled with children’s books. Scholarships were increased to 13, Santa’s workshop was inaugurated and the Guild continued its support of the Nature Study Program, Children’s Theater and the Youth Festival.
The year 1968-1969 was a year of transition. The Lee B. Skinner Youth Center was sold and the youth program was moved to a new building under construction in Highlander Park. That year the Guild concerned itself primarily with service, knowing funds would be needed to furnish the new Dunedin Community Center. Financial and service support was given to Family and Children’s Service agency, Pediatric service continued at Mease Hospital and again, 13 scholarships were awarded.

While asking members what they felt should be added to this history, many things were mentioned.

First was the continuation of the Guild’s connection to Parks and Recreation. We were told how the first community center was furnished with a pool table, ping pong table and other equipment thanks to the DYG. There seemed to be a real partnership which has endured through the years. The DYG would hold functions there and in turn help by volunteering and funding youth activities. Santa’s workshop and Santa Calling continued through the years thanks to the volunteers. The first canoes at the Hammock and Prams at the Marina were donated by DYG. Members also volunteered in several capacities at the local schools and took shifts at the Historical Society. All of this was to fulfill our mission of bettering the quality of life and cultural experiences of the Greater Dunedin area youth. The current community center has The Dunedin Youth Guild Lounge which was funded by a five year pledge of $25,000. The Find Arts Center and the Dunedin Public Library also received funds from the Guild for improvements and programs.

Second, is the significant fundraising efforts of a dedicated group of DYG’ers that put together our Guild cookbooks. The first, Calico Cooks, was published in 1978 and sold for $3.50. The second, The Suncoast Seasons Cookbook was published by the Guild in November 1984. Suncoast Seasons, a successful “culinary collection” was awarded “Best Cookbook” and received the Tastemaker Award. It sold for $13.95 and raised funds which were used to initiate the DYG Endowment Fund.

Other members remember that the Guild used to meet twice a month; a day time meeting and then an evening meeting for women who worked. These were combined in 2002 into the single evening meeting format we have today.

About Us Today

Our membership focus is still dual-hatted. Service to the youth of the community is provided through our involvement in the area schools as well as local clothing, school supplies and diaper drives. Fundraising continues as members continue to step out to find different ways to raise funds for our mission. Over the years our fundraising efforts have included evenings at Frances Wilson Playhouse; Evening Fashion Shows; Dunedin Does Desserts; and volunteering at the concessions at the stadium. Of all the events we’ve hosted over the years, two continue on today.

Our first Holiday Tour of Homes was in 1969 and featured lovely homes in the then-new community of Spanish Trails. As a result, over 45 years later, the Tour has become wide spread and well known. Visitors to the area often plan their stay here in Dunedin around the first Saturday of December, the traditional date of the DYG Holiday Tour of Homes.

Our Spring Scholarship Luncheon and Fashion Show has been held each year since 1974 on the first Saturday of March. All proceeds fund Scholarship awards to local high school students. At present guild continues to award over $35,000 in yearly scholarships. In our history, we are proud of the fact that we have provided over half a million scholarship dollars to local students since the inception of the program.

Be sure to mark your calendars and don’t miss these wonderful events. We have a rich heritage to be proud of and lots to live up to. In addition to our members and our organization your donations have helped us make an impact on our community. Take a minute to reflect on our long history… then please join us as we all roll up our sleeves because we’ve got lots more to do as we

Remember our past… and look to our future.