Yesterday, we celebrated The Pride Center’s 26thanniversary. Today, we launch the construction process for The Residences at Equality Park. It’s a big week for The Center and — more importantly — for the community. There is a lot to celebrate, but much still to do.
I first got involved at The Pride Center when I tested positive here. Staff and volunteers scooped me up, answered my questions, linked me to resources and surrounded me with love. The Center’s LIFE Program knit me closely into a community of people that believed in me (when I didn’t necessarily believe in myself!), challenged me to improve my health and give back to those around me. (The Center will start the next cycle of the LIFE Program for people living with HIV/AIDS soon. Please call 954.463.9005 to enroll now!)
When we purchased the five-and-a-half-acre Equality Park campus in Wilton Manors in 2008, our vision was to create a campus of care. As stewards of the campus, we recognize our responsibility to serve the evolving needs of the community today and for generations to come. Today’s campus of care provides a welcoming, safe space — an inclusive home — for tens of thousands of deserving people to access critical services and resources, celebrate faith, get tested, exercise the body or mind, get sober or just connect socially with community.
Over the past several years we have expanded our services, programs and events for seniors, women, people of color, transgender communities, LGBT couples and families, people living with HIV/AIDS and more. The Equality Park campus is home to 75+ groups, organizations, community non-profits, and service providers. We host more than 4,000 meetings annually. Each and every day, between 1,000 and 2,000 visitors step foot on our campus. We’re home to many organizations that serve our diverse communities: South Florida Institute on Aging, Dolphin Democrats, Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida, Church of the Holy SpiritSong, Congregation Etz Chaim, August Gold, SAGE of South Florida and Literacy Connection.
We have made great progress, yet, there is still much more to do.
The Residences at Equality Park
LGBTQ seniors are particularly in need of affordable housing — nationally and locally in Wilton Manors. Broward County households face the most severely burdened rental market in the nation. We started the journey to provide affordable, senior homes on our campus in 2012 when first approached by The City of Wilton Manors and Gay and Lesbian Elder Housing. The Residences at Equality Park affords us an excellent opportunity to help meet this great need.
Importantly, The Residences will represent Florida’s first affordable housing community with customized supportive services for LGBT seniors.I can’t wait to invite you to take part in one of the events we’ll be able to provide in the new community room. For anyone who has joined the 200+ seniors that meet each Tuesday during our “Coffee and Conversation,” you know our new community room will be put to good use! Just imagine how Wilton Manors and Broward County residents will benefit from our expanded and enhanced seniors’ programming! I am so grateful for our partners who worked tirelessly to bring this project to life especially the project developer, Carrfour, Pride Center’s leadership team, along with The Weinberg Foundation, Legal Aid Service of Broward County, Crush Law, The City of Wilton Manors, and Broward County. (See the history and details of the project on our web site at www.pridecenterflorida.org/community-programs/senior-affordable-housing/.)
Campus Improvements and Construction
As a Community Center and as a campus, we have made a number of improvements to: prepare for the addition of The Residences; implement recommendations of our 2018 Task Force, and to be good neighbors. These include:
- Enhancement of a high-tech security-camera and alarm system throughout campus
- Installation of an ADA entrance and ramp near the Schubert building/playground;
- Installation of a new fence around our playground
- Upgrades and adjustments to campus outdoor lighting, including shield installation of original fixtures to reduce light spillage
- Changes to the Challenge Fitness space to reduce noise, including installation of AC
- Significant landscaping enhancements, installation of dog waste stations throughout the campus and parking lot surface improvements
I hope our actions show we’re committed to being a good neighbor to those around us, to the City of Wilton Manors with whom we’ve collaborated on so many projects over the years and to the diverse residents of South Florida who benefit from our programs, services and events.
During the construction phase, we’ll continue to work closely with Carrfour and our many partners on campus to communicate construction timelines and minimize disruption. You can expect frequent communication with us about construction progress via email and our web site.
A Final Thank You…
Once again, I want to express my appreciation for our community partners and supporters who work with us every day to empower those we serve, expand the services available to our community, and find new ways to bring us closer together as a community. I am grateful for every organization, supporter, volunteer, and staff member who has empowered The Center to serve our community for 26 years. Thank you for enabling us to be a welcoming, safe, and inclusive home.