By Richard Yager….
Aided by a $2 million state grant approved in 2008, ground was broken on Sept. 8 for the Dr. Olga Maria Martinez Senior Center in West Kendall by Miami-Dade Commissioner Joe Martinez and officials of the Little Havana Activities and Nutrition Centers (LHANC).
Located on a parcel near N. Kendall Drive at SW 152nd Avenue, the center has been designed to house an estimated 50 older individuals, as well as 150 socially isolated seniors from the area, according to Commissioner Martinez.
The West Kendall center was planned to include class- rooms, activity rooms, a main gathering hall, lunch meal site, adult day care center and staff office space.
A Community Development Block Grant administered by Dade Community Foundation and funding from general obligation bonds furnished an additional $1.5 million to build the center, anticipated to be completed by July 2011.
The project honors Commissioner Martinez’s mother who dedicated much of her life to assisting the elderly and youth in Miami-Dade County.
During the groundbreaking ceremony, the commissioner paid tribute to the life and accomplishments of Dr. Martinez who left her native Cuba in 1957, eventually to reside in Miami and dedicate her life to social work throughout the community.
A graduate of the University of Havana with a PhD in Education, she reinstated her degree upon coming to the U.S., completed a Master of Education at the University of Miami and was certified to teach mathematics and Spanish.
She became focused on assisting the elderly and young people suffering from substance abuse, as well as concerns of Haitian refugees and agricultural field workers.
During the groundbreaking ceremony, Commissioner Martinez also honored the Little Havana-based organization for its collaboration on the project, including securing various funding sources and site acquisition.
The $2 million in state grant money came from the Senior Capital Outlay Program of the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, as part of a $10 million grant to repair and maintain 19 senior centers statewide, as well as including funds to build new centers in Miami, Gainesville and Apalachicola. Senior centers receiving grants were required to provide at least 25 percent in matching funds, as announced by Gov. Charlie Crist.
“Without the assistance of Commissioner Martinez, Gov. Crist, and the entire Miami-Dade legislative delegation, this center would not be a reality for the seniors of West Miami Dade County,” said Ramon Perez-Dorrbecker, LHANC president and CEO.
Headquartered in Miami at 700 SW Eighth St., the charitable non-profit organization provides a wide range of social services free of charge to both socially isolated and economically disadvantaged seniors in South Florida, working in collaboration with local municipalities. Projects and services are funded through government grants, contracts and private donations.
Founded in 1972, the Centers’ organization has grown to serve an estimated 11,000 seniors, 93 percent of Hispanic origin, 91 percent below poverty line status and 77 percent age 75 or older.