Ground has been broken for The Wellness Community of Southwest Florida, a facility projected to help 6,000 people a year as they seek to regain their health from cancer.
The facility, being built in the Corporate Park at Lakewood Ranch, would serve people from Tampa-St. Petersburg in the north to Venice in the south, said Jay Lockaby, executive director.
Originally, the facility was scheduled to open in June of this year, but fundraising efforts were hurt by the downturn in the economy.
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“It’s happening,” Lockaby said of the start of construction.
The not-for-profit organization would offer people with cancer and their caregivers support and information free of charge.
Program participants would be able to meet in the serenity of a home-like environment.
Wednesday, crews were at work on the footprint of the building on a five-acre site off Communications Parkway. The 22,000-square-foot facility is being built by Willis A. Smith Construction. Completion is scheduled in 10-months, according to information provided by the contractor.
The Wellness Community received its not-for-profit status in 1994, and opened at 3900 Clark Road, Sarasota, in 1996, Lockaby said.
Officials plan to sell the current facility to help fund The Wellness Community endowment, he said.
Programs range from providing help to patients from the time they are diagnosed with cancer through long-term survivorship, physical exercise, and nutrition programs. Programs are designed for all ages, including children.
About $6.8 million has been pledged for The Wellness Center, and the campaign needs another $1.8 million, according to a press release.
The Kresge Foundation has issued a $650,000 challenge grant, and officials for The Wellness Community say they need to raise $750,000 in additional dollars by Dec. 31.
“Although our organization’s Building Hope campaign was launched in a challenging economic environment, continuing support from individuals, corporations and foundations has made it possible for us to move forward,” said Alfred Rose, campaign chairman, in a press release.
Lakewood Ranch was selected for the new facility because it is close to Interstate 75, is in a pastoral setting, was affordable and had zoning in place, Lockaby said.
For more information, call 924-8740 or visit www.wellness-swfl.org/.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 708-7916.