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Team effort makes Martin’s Kane Center, including pet room, a reality

by  Jonathan Mattise

STUART — Lawmakers, local officials and community leaders filled the Charles & Rae Kane Center auditorium Wednesday to hear just how many Treasure Coast and state figures had a hand in making the $15.7 million center a reality.

And, it turns out, including a room for seniors’ pets proved a dealmaker to get the state’s biggest official at the time fully on board.

The invitation-only crowd perused the 34,000-square-foot grounds, including the Town Center, a scaled-down Florida Main Street with mini-houses containing senior services.

Packed 400 deep in the Frances Langford Theatre and Auditorium, guests listened to speakers and watched the ribbon-cutting. Then visitors glanced around the geriatric-specific medical wing and Adult Day Center facilities.

Behind all the Council on Aging of Martin County center’s eye-catching amenities, easily navigable flooring, tons of handrails and simple colors for aging eyes made the center accessible for all ability levels.

“The whole idea is, no one who comes to our center will perceive there is a line of demarcation that, when crossed, will somehow define them as infirm,” said Barbara Kauffman, the Council’s president and CEO. “We are all the same. We are all trying to live young at any age.”

But, of all the Kane Center’s features, a room in the back to store seniors’ cats, dogs and other pets during hurricanes was an important request of former Gov. Jeb Bush, saidSen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart.

Negron had been pushing for state dollars for a central or southern Martin County senior center while serving as the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee chairman in the mid-2000s.

After hurricanes ravaged the region in 2004 and 2005, Bush visited Martin County to find many seniors stayed at home during the storms.

“We were hearing stories about seniors who wouldn’t come out of their homes because they couldn’t take their pets,” Negron said.

Negron suggested ramping up the senior center idea by ensuring the building could double as a hurricane shelter. After the hurricane room for pets was put into plans, Bush stayed on board with the plan and didn’t use his veto pen on the center’s request for state dollars, Negron said.

Negron secured $5 million for the facility in the 2006 Legislature, and then-Senate President Ken Pruitt of Port St. Lucie helped pass it through his chamber. Another $1.9 million came through in the 2009 Legislature.

The Frances Langford Foundation also chipped in $2.5 million, helping fuel a capital campaign that is $1.7 million shy of its $15.7 million goal.

The center passed its Agency for Health Care Administration inspection Tuesday, and by Monday its Adult Day Center will be up and running for seniors needing help and supervision in morning and afternoon hours.

Programming for the general public is slated to start sometime in October, sometime around an Oct. 15 community open house. Tours on Tuesdays and Thursdays start this week.

And for the building’s namesakes — Charles Kane, well-known county Republican leader, and his wife Rae — the hum of activity already surrounding the facility is starting to bring their vision to fruition.

“Rae and I see this a center not only for the frail, but for all seniors, and particularly the caregivers who need respite from their responsibilities,” Charles Kane said. “I hope it’ll become an inter-generational gathering place for everyone in Martin County.”

Charles & Rae Kane Center

Tours of the 900 Southeast Salerno Road facility begin Thursday, and will occur 9:30 a.m. to noon Tuesdays, or from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Thursdays

Adult Day Center services will officially move to the Kane Center on Monday

An open house for the community will be held Oct. 15; programs for the general public will begin in October

The medical wing, which will be staffed by Martin Memorial Health Systems, will include a geriatrician and nurse to help seniors avoid re-hospitalizations

Spaces within the venue will be available for the community to rent, including an outdoor courtyard, theater, the Town Center and a conference room

For more information, call 772-223-7800 or visit www.kanecenter.org.

Link to TCPalm article.

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