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Donor gifts, including a major posthumous donation, will support expanded spaces for recreation and community.

Back in the mid-’70s, Pat Arbutine, co-owner of longtime Belleair Bluffs business Belleair Coins and Silver Queen, realized that residents needed something that was missing: a place for recreation. 

In 1977, Arbutine wrote a letter to the Belleair Bee pointing out the lack of recreational opportunities in the city. As a result, a group of determined citizens, business owners and professional associations came together as Community Center Inc. The group raised over $135,000, and by the mid-1980s the city was able to acquire land on Sunset Boulevard as a site for a park and a community center. 

By 1993, however, it was determined that the project could proceed no further. A delay was declared, and the funds were set aside. 

Then in 1996 the project was jump-started again when resident Dorothy Howard left the city $200,000 to go toward building the community center. On November 3, 2001, Mayor Chris Arbutine, Pat Arbutine’s son, cut the ribbon for the new center. This purchase allowed for a playground to be installed using a $50,000 Florida Recreation Assistance Program (FRDAP) grant for improvements/replacements to the playground next to City Hall. 

Now, thanks to a very generous donation from the late David Berolzheimer, the updated park and playground area can be completed. Mr. Berolzheimer owned the Bluffs Plaza at 100 Indian Rocks for many years and was a frequent visitor to city hall and the park. 

City Administrator Debra Sullivan announced the $100,000 donation at the November 9, 2020 City Commission meeting. The money is to be used for playground and park improvements. The city was able to obtain another FRDAP grant in 2020 in the amount of $50,000. Added to the Berolzheimer gift, that brings the total amount allocated to the park to $150,000.

Berolzheimer’s donation was given in his name by his longtime companion Bonnie Starr, who presented the $100,000 gift at the Commission meeting. She described herself as “the messenger” for the gift, and said that she and Sullivan had discussed what to spend the money on. 

“I told her, it could be anything you might need, would like to have and don’t have.”

— Bonnie Starr, longtime companion of David Berolzheimer

“I told her, it could be anything you might need, would like to have and don’t have. I want to help you in that journey of creating something special for the community to enjoy,” Starr said. “We can do something really beautiful if we add these funds to the grant money.” The gift is “totally in your hands. Do whatever you like. It’s unrestricted.” 

City Administrator Sullivan said that the gift, added to the grant money, would pay for “a total renovation of our outside area. I mentioned the possibility of an adult exercise and a gazebo at that time in addition to completely replacing the outdated children’s play area.” 

The area is now in the planning stages and proposed new site plan and equipment will be presented to the City Commission in the next few months.

A portion of this story was excerpted from the book Belleair Bluffs from the Beginning, by Wayne Ayers with Vice Mayor Taylour Shimkus and Debra Sullivan.

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