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Longboat Key Monday, Jan. 20, 2020 6 months ago

Paradise Center welcomes Longboat Key residents to its new space

A successful open house drums up success for the expanded organization's future.
by: Nat Kaemmerer Staff Writer

Although it still has one foot in Temple Beth Israel and the other in its own space, The Paradise Center on Longboat Key is gearing up to be a fully independent organization.

The Paradise Center held an open house Jan. 16 to introduce the public to its new space, the former Northern Trust building at 546 Bay Isles Road. Executive Director Suzy Brenner was on hand to show off the building in its current state (about one-third of the total space is currently accessible) and what it will look like come summer.

“Now we can have all of our ‘family’ in one place,” Executive Assistant Mary Ann Brady said. “We have our own heartbeat now.”

Dozens of Longboat Key residents came out to the open house to meet representatives from Youthful Aging, Luminary Dermatology, JFCS and The Paradise Center itself, as well as to check out the floor plan and planned activities for the new building.

“We want to take advantage of everything they have, and they’ve got something for everybody,” attendee Joyce Tappan said. “We’re going to come more often. We’re very happy they’ve got their own place.”

More people than ever are discovering The Paradise Center, now that it has a sign beckoning passersby. When it first started at Longboat Island Chapel, the center was on the second floor, and folks trying to find it sometimes couldn’t. In Temple Beth Israel, members would sometimes walk over from the temple to check things out, but visitors rarely came in off the street.

“We’re getting foot traffic that we never really got before,” Brenner said. “Pretty much every day we get one or two people.”

Now that the organization has its own space, it’s looking to expand the programs it offers for residents’ health and wellness. Currently, all exercise classes are still held in Temple Beth Israel, right down the street at 567 Bay Isles Road.

The most impactful addition to the nonprofit’s offered services will be a rotating “executive suite” of medical practitioners, including a dermatologist, hearing specialist, general practitioner, physical therapist and brain health specialist. For example, dermatologist Dr. Cary Dunn will be at The Paradise Center two Fridays a month. Currently, Longboat Key residents have to go off the island to seek many forms of medical care. Previous practitioners have tried to establish on the island but closed down.

“[A medical practice] is very hard to sustain with the cyclical population,” Brenner said. “Here, it will be like an executive suite for professionals, where the doctors don’t have to cover the overhead expenses themselves.”

Once construction is completed, likely in summer 2020, The Paradise Center will have several exam rooms for its rotating medical partners to perform their tasks, along with a spacious physical therapy room and a blood lab.

“Now you won’t have to go over the bridge to get medical care,” Jessica Phillips of Luminary Dermatology said.

The Paradise Center has partnered with Stratum Health System, the parent company of Tidewell Hospice and other medical providers, in the endeavor.

In addition to guaranteed partnerships with FitnessQuest Physical Therapy, JFCS, Youthful Aging and Cary Dunn, The Paradise Center is hoping to add an orthopedist and podiatrist to its rotating cycle.

“An orthopedist is the natural fit,” Brenner said.

JFCS of the Suncoast, a Jewish organization for families, will be bringing its senior and caregiver support and mental health expertise to the center as well.

“We know what we do well at our main offices, so we want to see what’s needed out here and come up with a new program,” Director of Senior Services Pamela Baron said.

JFCS’s senior services hopes to change mental health care generationally as it reaches out to people living alone, promotes socialization and combats loneliness on the island. Baron hopes JFCS will be able to develop relationships with people who come in every week for various groups and to build trust with them, so JFCS can assess what they need.

“Often, people are dealing with issues they didn’t anticipate,” Baron said.

As far as the organization’s cultural offerings, Brenner sees more arts-based activities in The Paradise Center’s future, including regular movie showings starting in the hot summer months and perhaps a book club to go along with it.

“There’s a handful of classics that I just never got around to reading, and a lot of the classics have movies made” Brenner said. “I was thinking of doing a classics book club, and then you come in and watch the movie and then talk about the differences between them.”

The activity room, soon to be made larger when the building’s last tenant vacates and Brenner knocks out the wall separating the spaces, already boasts a loyal mahjong crowd, a discussion group and other engaging activities. When there’s more room, the center’s vibrant exercise class crew will move to the new space. There’s now a patio, so when the weather’s nice, Brenner looks forward to being able to host activities outdoors.

Things are still in motion for The Paradise Center, but as construction completes and more residents learn about the upcoming expansion, the future is bright at 546 Bay Isles Road.

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