Grand Anchor Gala to celebrate 25 years of serving local teens


The annual Grand Anchor Gala benefitting Project SOS is set for Saturday, Feb. 24 from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, where event attendees will celebrate 25 years of the nonprofit organization’s efforts in serving First Coast teens.

“It’s going to be a wonderful, high energy, fun party,” said Pam Mullarkey Robbins, founder and CEO of Project SOS, who is retiring at the end of June. “We’re celebrating the great things the kids have done, the great decisions they’ve made.”

Robbins founded Project SOS 25 years ago when she felt compelled to help teenagers with goal setting, decision making, boundaries, bullying, avoiding drugs/alcohol and more. Since its inception, the organization has impacted the lives of 475,000 local teenagers across Northeast Florida through its in-school programming that focuses on healthy and unhealthy relationship skills, substance abuse, refusal skills for sexual risk avoidance, depression and suicide, social media and more.

All proceeds from the gala will support the Project SOS programming, which is now part of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Florida after the two organizations merged in the summer of 2017.

“Standing alone, both organizations are really good,” said Paul Martinez, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Florida. “Together they lean toward greatness.”

Martinez further explained that, historically, the Boys & Girls Clubs hasn’t been extremely successful in attracting teenagers to its programs. Project SOS, however, specializes in that age group. In addition, Boys & Girls Clubs conducts after-school programming, while Project SOS works with students during the school day. As a result, Martinez said the organizations together will reach more students and have a greater impact.

Combine that holistic, expanded programming with the two new teen centers that the organization is soon opening in Springfield and Arlington, and Martinez is excited for the future.

“So now when we go throughout the city… there’s a follow-up plan as to where they [the kids] can come for additional counseling, career work and help,” said Martinez, who noted that the teen centers will feature robotics labs, cosmetology and catering centers, bicycles shops and more.

In addition to discussion on the merger and these projects, the Feb. 24 gala will feature a New Orleans, Mardi Gras theme, entertainment from The Chris Thomas Band, a silent auction, a live auction including luxurious trips and more.

Tickets cost $150 and include a filet mignon dinner, entertainment and dancing. Tables including eight seats are also still available for $1,200. The event, which has been ongoing for about 20 years, raised $109,000 last year. Robbins said the goal for this year is $200,000, to ultimately help more teenagers in the area.

“We absolutely love teenagers,” said Robbins. “It doesn’t matter what they’ve done or where they’ve come from. They’re valuable and special, and they have a future.”

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