Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor, County Administrator Verdenia Baker and about a dozen other community leaders joined the local community to celebrate the grand opening of the newly-renovated San Castle Community Center Saturday morning. Each clenched scissors awaiting the cue to cut a long, red ribbon that symbolized months of team work and a future dedicated to lifting up the children and families of the community sandwiched between Lantana and Hypoluxo.
“Our role in this collaborative endeavor is to elevate the voices of those who reside here and ensure that their hopes and needs for the community can be actualized,” said Jaime-Lee Brown, Vice President of Community Services at Community Partners.
In 2003, the nearly 2,000 square-foot building was constructed at the request of the San Castle Community Leadership group, a not-for-profit organization created to advocate for the needs of San Castle community. Originally, the facility was envisioned as a transitional approach to address the immediate needs of the community, which at that time was identified as early childhood education. Residents also envisioned the facility as a community center.
In June of 2014, when the responsibility for Head Start was outsourced, multiple Palm Beach County departments – including the Facilities Development and Operations Department, the Office of Community Revitalization, and the Sheriff’s Office – worked diligently to identify a nonprofit organization to partner with the community to lease and manage the community center.
Housing Partnership, Inc., DBA Community Partners, was selected to take over the facility. Community Partners will be teaming up with area service providers to offer social service referrals, connections to quality after-school care, adult education classes, health education seminars, teen pregnancy prevention, parenting programs, drug and gang prevention and mentoring, as well as other programs intended to support the needs of the San Castle community. The center is open to residents regardless of income, and there are no federal eligibility requirements to participate in the programs.
Prior to its opening, the facility underwent interior renovations, including air conditioning and flooring replacements. The exterior has been weather-proofed. Palm Beach County Facilities Development and Operations designed and oversaw the project construction; funds for the renovations – $150,000 – came from the Department of Economic Sustainability’s allocation of Community Development Block Grant funds.
The existence of this community center could have not come to fruition without the support of Commissioner Priscilla A. Taylor and the time, cooperation, and collective effort of the Palm Beach County Office of Community Revitalization, Facilities Development and Operations, Department of Economic Sustainability, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, Community Partners, as well as Robling Architecture Construction, Inc.
At the opening event on Saturday, several service agencies set up tables to ensure families had access to free information, food, and fun to celebrate the opening of the facility. Individuals representing Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation, Drowning Prevention, Environmental Resource Management and others were present to greet families and educate them on resources available to create happier, healthier lifestyles.
The community center is more than just a facility for residents to gather. The facility will provide an opportunity for residents to access resources and work with center staff and the Office of Community Revitalization towards a common goal – building community ownership and capacity. The future looks bright for the community with the center opening and the momentum being created in preparation for the Abundant Community Initiative. ACI is a pilot project that follows a national model that supports grassroots efforts to increase neighborhood wellness by encouraging strong connections between neighbors. The overall goal of the project, spearheaded by the Office of Community Revitalization, is to help communities to be places where people know their neighbors, watch out for each other, take pride in where they live, and enjoy many opportunities for social, educational, and recreational interaction.
San Castle Community Park
The Community Center is situated in San Castle Community Park, located at 1101 Mentone Road in Boynton Beach. It is one of the two neighborhood parks designed, built and partially funded by the Parks and Recreation Department in the community. The park opened more than a decade ago and is utilized by the residents of the San Castle community. The 1-acre park features playgrounds for kids 2-12 years old, a gazebo, a half-court for basketball, bicycle racks and a drinking fountain. The park is open from Sunrise to Sunset.