Executive director Suzy Brenner shared the goals and benefits of the island's center.
The Kiwanis Club of Longboat Key met on Oct. 7 for breakfast and a briefing on The Paradise Center. Executive Director Suzy Brenner came to the meeting to update the club on the medical suite that’s been established in the Tidewell building at 544 Bay Isles Road, as well as the activities they put on every day.
Brenner and The Paradise Center operate in one part of the building that the Tidewell Foundation purchased, while four medical practices operate on a rotating schedule next door. Other medical practices that have opened full-time offices on the Key often can’t deal with the seasonal population and high rent, so Brenner devised a system where practices can operate on a day-by-day basis in a building that already has all the necessary equipment.
“Long story short, I negotiated a great price on that building and Tidewell bought it for us to create a wellness center right in the middle of what is basically town center,” Brenner said. “We're right across from the library, right next to the post office. Our back porch will be a great viewing stand for the Lawn Party, and everything in the building is designed to just help the mental and physical health of the island.”
Brenner and her team at The Paradise Center want to offer ways for Longboat Key residents to socialize all year round, even when the population dwindles in the summer. There are discussion groups, movie showings, exercise classes and other activities that keep going all year round to help combat the loneliness and isolation that are prominent problems among seniors.
“A lot of places, a lot of groups, a lot of sort of support services that come to Longboat Key, close up shop at the end of April and don't come back until November, and I understand that,” Brenner said. “Our business model, even though we are a nonprofit, is different. We try to rely on sponsorships and donations rather than charging people a lot of money or having instructors ... who want $100 a class. We can't do that because in the summer, there might only be two people that come, but we still hold a class even if only one or two people come, because those people that come to class are the ones that are generally the most isolated and lonely.”
Brenner tries to do activities that are different from what other organizations offer on the Key; she doesn’t do many academic activities so as not to step on the toes of the Education Center at Temple Beth Israel. But there are crafty classes and every day, there’s some sort of exercise.
“Seriously, we just have a good time,” Brenner said. “And frankly, I don't care if you're doing your own interpretive dance. If you’re moving, that’s what we care about.”
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