Floridian of the Year: Lift Orlando
Non-profit Lift Orlando is revitalizing a poor, crime-ridden neighborhood around Camping World Stadium
CHILD CARE / EDUCATION
- West Lakes Early Learning Center ($8.3 million)
Owned and operated by AdventHealth, the ELC provides early childhood education and preschool services for children from 6 weeks to 5 years old. The ELC follows a blended curriculum based on Primrose Schools’ Balanced Learning approach and AdventHealth’s “CREATION Life” principles, which emphasize choice, rest, environment, activity, trust in God, interpersonal relationships, outlook and nutrition. There is also a physician’s assistant onsite, so parents don’t have to miss work if their child is ill. Now in its second school year, the ELC has 141 enrolled students. Approximately three dozen kids are from West Lakes and 22 live in Pendana, and many are the sons and daughters of employees of AdventHealth.
- Jacqueline Bradley & Clarence Otis Family Branch of Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida ($9.4 million)
Named after retired Darden Restaurants CEO Clarence Otis and his wife, Jacqueline Bradley, who donated $4 million to the project, the two-story club — with design elements inspired by the exclusive Alaqua Country Club in Longwood — features a dance studio, commercial kitchen, fullsize gymnasium with a stage for performances, tech and STEM labs, a college and career center and more. The 30,000-sq.-ft. facility, which opened in March, can accommodate up to 250 children (ages 6 to 18) at no cost to their families.
HEALTH & WELLNESS
- Lake Lorna Doone Park($9 million)
When the Polis Institute surveyed residents of West Lakes about their concerns in late 2013, the Lake Lorna Doone city park was near the top of their list. In 1955, the park (located just north of Camping World Stadium) hosted the South’s first racially integrated Little League baseball game, but 60 years later, it became a popular spot for homeless people and drug activity, causing many families to shy away. More than two dozen residents participated in the redesign process, and Lake Lorna Doone reopened last summer with $9 million in upgrades, including a splash pad, basketball courts and a miniature golf course inspired by the back nine at Bay Hill.
- Heart of West Lakes Wellness Center ($13.6 million)
Doctors are scarce in the West Lakes community, and many residents are uninsured, pushing them into local hospital emergency rooms when they are sick. To improve access to care, Lift and its partners — Orlando Health, AdventHealth and Florida Blue — are collaborating on the development of a 30,000-sq.- ft. facility that will provide convenient access to affordable health care, including obstetrics, pediatrics, urgent care and family practitioners. Community Health Centers, which operates 15 family health centers in Central Florida, will operate the clinic component. The building, slated for completion next year, will feature community meeting space, a cafe, a fitness center and study and co-working space. It will also provide a home for the West Lakes Financial Wellbeing Center, which (with $1.2 million from the Truist Foundation) provides free workshops, one-on-one financial coaching and job placement services to residents of the 32805 ZIP code. Florida Blue plans to provide residents with help navigating the health care system. “Through this center, we want to be able to direct people to not only where they can get the right care, but the most affordable places that they can get care, and a lot of folks sometimes are going to emergency rooms for situations and incidents that are not emergencies, such as headaches,” says Tony Jenkins, Central Florida market president for Florida Blue. “But again without the availability or ability to get in front of a physician, that’s the only choice that they have. This center will help solve some of that.”