Affordable housing community blessed in Arcadia

The recently completed San Pedro at Meadow Park affordable housing community with 23 apartments in Arcadia was blessed by Bishop Frank J. Dewane on Jan. 30, 2024.

The Diocese of Venice partnered on the project with National Development of America, Inc. (NDA), and was supported by the City of Arcadia.

During the blessing and ribbon-cutting ceremony, Bishop Dewane thanked Arcadia city officials and NDA for their support in getting the much-needed project built.

“The Church teaches that it is one of the basic rights of every individual to have adequate housing,” Bishop Dewane said. “We are happily filling a need to allow families to go forward and live together as one, where parents can be with their children and exercise that concept of a whole family being together.”

Arcadia Mayor Robert W. Heine Jr., who spoke on behalf of the city (several council members and other officials were present for the ceremony), beamed with joy as he thanked Bishop Dewane for bringing the San Pedro apartments to Arcadia.

“This is wonderful. As city officials, what we hear about most is the lack of affordable housing; and this will surely help,” Heine said. “This is an impressive project. It is not low-income, but affordable housing for those people who serve our community – teachers, law enforcement, city employees – who may not be able to afford a big new housing with interest rates and other costs.”

Matt Miller, of NDA, said the project has been in the works since 2020, noting the difficulties of getting financing when construction costs escalated. An additional hurdle occurred when Hurricane Ian struck the area in September 2022, just a month after construction began. Nothing was damaged but all of the people working on the project were affected by the storm.

Miller said San Pedro is a garden-style apartment community consisting of 23 three-bedroom, two-bath units. Each unit has new stainless-steel appliances, plus a washer and dryer. The property has an outdoor green space with a playground for children to enjoy, an on-site clubhouse and leasing office.

“The rent will range from $650 to $900 a month, depending on your income, which in these times is amazing,” Miller said.

Miller also thanked Bishop Dewane for being a continuing partner in bringing affordable housing to those who need it the most.

Previously, the Diocese and NDA worked together in Arcadia to build Casa San Juan Bosco I & II, 97 duplex homes used for farmworker housing, and later the adjoining St. John Paul II Villas, a 64-unit senior housing complex. Other projects include the recently completed Casa San Alfonso, an affordable housing community in Zolfo Springs, and the St. Peter Claver Place apartments currently being constructed in Fort Myers. Additional projects are in development.

In addition, the Diocese has built several low-income elderly housing communities in Sarasota (2), Fort Myers (4), Port Charlotte, and Palmetto (2), as well as creating transitional emergency housing for individuals or families in need in partnership with Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc.

Bishop Dewane concluded the blessing prayer service by saying, “May Christ always be here among the residents, nurturing in love, sharing in joy, and comforting in sorrow, inspired by His teaching, His graces, and His example. May the residents seek to make each home a dwelling place to be shared with God.”

For information about leasing an apartment at San Pedro at Meadow Park, please call NDC Asset Management at 863-884-2123.

Affordable housing community blessed in Zolfo Spring

The recently completed Casa San Alfonso affordable housing community with 21 single-family homes in Zolfo Springs was blessed by Bishop Frank J. Dewane on Sept. 28, 2023.

“Housing continues to be a vital concern and need for people throughout Florida,” Bishop Dewane said. “We’re pleased to support Zolfo Springs with affordable rental housing that will provide comfort and a sense of belonging for local residents.”

The Diocese of Venice partnered on the project with National Development of America, Inc., and supported by Zolfo Springs and Hardee County.

“We’re very grateful for our partnership with the Diocese of Venice and the strong support from county and city officials to help bring this project to fruition,” said John Raymond, director of real estate for National Development of America. “Casa San Alfonso is the perfect example of how a community can come together to achieve something impactful.”

Zolfo Springs Mayor Rod Cannon was overjoyed by the project and complimented the quality of the work noting that there were nearby tracts of land available if the Diocese was interested in expanding the project.

“This is beautiful. I am really overwhelmed by it,” Cannon said. “I have been excited about this whole project from the moment I learned about it to this day. We are blessed to have it, especially as it is available to families who might not have any other housing options in our community.”

Justin Smith, with the Development Group in Hardee County, said the county initially did not have a policy in place to support affordable housing but was able to back the housing project through grants to help make the finances work.

During the ceremony, Bishop Dewane offered a special thank you to the faithful of St. Michael Parish in Wauchula for their support of the project. Casa San Alfonso is located on repurposed land that was once used as a Mission of St. Michael.

Representing the Parish at the ceremony were Father Wilner Durosier, CS, Father Juan Lorenzo, women religious of the Servant Sisters of the Blessed Virgin of Matara, as well as many of the faithful.

Father Durosier said he was excited about the project and promised to promote the housing opportunities to the faithful.

The Diocese of Venice and National Development embarked on Casa San Alfonso in 2020 to address the growing demand for affordable rental housing in Hardee County. Additional affordable housing projects within Hardee County are already in the development process.

National Development of America will manage Casa San Alfonso which will provide affordable housing for qualified residents – those who make 50-60% of the Average Median Income. Monthly rents range from $673 to $976.

The community features 17 – 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom homes, and 4 – 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom homes, complete with new appliances. Amenities include an onsite clubhouse with a computer lab, and charming walking trails throughout the neighborhood, which is situated on a large outdoor greenspace of 12 total acres.

Casa San Alfonso is now leasing. Interested applicants should submit a leasing form at form.jotform.com/231163616210140 or email alfonso@ndcassetmanagement.com for more information.

 

Center reopening sparks joy in community

A bright white building along Michigan Avenue in the Dunbar and Harlem Heights sections of Fort Myers has been a beacon of hope in the community for nearly 35 years.

The African Caribbean American Center (AFCAAM Center), a program of Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice, Inc., has been a stalwart since 1988, providing after-school tutoring and mentoring in a positive and safe environment.

A temporary setback caused by the global pandemic turned out be a renaissance for AFCAAM allowing necessary renovations of the facilities and the implementation of new programming to ensure that the center continues to be a great resource for the community.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane and other dignitaries took part in a community celebration of the reopening of the AFCAAM Center on Sept. 17, 2022. The celebration included a block-party atmosphere with a blessing and ribbon-cutting, as well as food trucks, bounce houses, dunk tanks, live music, and games. Singing legend Verceal Whitaker, formerly of The Platters, also performed live.

Bishop Dewane said shuttering AFCAAM during the pandemic was a difficult but correct decision, and the program reopens with much-improved facilities and the same mission; to offer educational support for children.

“Children are a gift for the community,” the Bishop said. “Through Sacred Scriptures we are challenged by the Lord to help build up the gifts of the children and it is clear we are doing that here every day at AFCAAM. This is done through the good works of Catholic Charities, the staff, volunteers and all of the community partners that come together for this important program.”

Eduardo Gloria, Chief Executive Office of Catholic Charities, said the two-year closure offered the opportunity to start a new chapter for AFCAAM.

“Today we are celebrating a return of a great program to this community,” Gloria said. “We feel AFCAAM is an incredible resource for the children and families. Catholic Charities is proud to be part of the incredible achievement for this great community.”

Originally founded in 1988 by Dominican Sisters, the AFCAAM program gets its unique name from the people it serves – African, Caribbean and American. The name, and program, reflect the great diversity of this community. The AFCAAM Center was remodeled to include a tropical-themed reading room, counseling space, classroom space, a computer lab with more than 50 computers and other improvements that make AFCAAM a positive setting for children to learn and grow.

Partners in the program include the Galeana Family Foundation, Lee County Sheriff’s Community Response Unit and Lee County Human and Veteran Services.

Anna Callwood, AFCAAM’s new program director, said there are currently 33 students taking part in the afterschool program with plenty of room for more.

“This is a safe and fun place to be,” Callwood said. “It is a place where young minds are encouraged to dream and to thrive academically, socially and physically; Tutoring, reading, reading comprehension and writing skills are implemented to ensure each child improves his or her academic and social performance. For the middle to high school-aged youth, they are mentored, encouraged and engaged as they mold their personal lives in preparation for life beyond.”

Four of the after-school program students went on stage to greet everyone who came out to support the reopening of AFCAAM.

For more information about the AFCAAM Center, visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org, or contact Anna Callwood at 239-461-0233 or anna.callwood@catholiccharitiesdov.org. The AFCAAM Center is located at 3681 Michigan Avenue, Fort Myers, FL 33916.

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