Uninsured and underinsured residents will have to travel only as far as Ninth Street in Winter Garden to seek medical attention when Shepherd’s Hope completes construction on a permanent facility in late 2017.
The city of Winter Garden and the West Orange Healthcare District have collaborated to support the nonprofit organization. The city approved a long-term lease of two acres for the clinic and administrative space, and the district is offering a $1 million match grant to build the facility.
The West Orange Health Alliance has agreed to contribute $500,000 toward the $1 million match in the form of a capital development grant for the new building.
The location, 455 Ninth St., is less than a mile away from Shepherd’s Hope’s original site at Orange Technical College Westside Campus, where it offered an after-hours clinic to underserved residents starting in 1996.
This facility will be open during the day, too, which will allow Shepherd’s Hope to reach more residents in need. And it is located on the Lynx bus route, which will allow even more people to utilize the organization’s services.
Marni Stahlman, president and CEO of Shepherd’s Hope, said it has been a goal to have a permanent building to continue its mission of providing “healthcare of the highest quality for the uninsured.”
Depending on the amount of funding that comes in, the facility will provide primary and secondary specialty care and could even include a radiology unit.
Tracy Swanson, executive director of the West Orange Healthcare District, said the city originally had other plans for the property, which is sandwiched between Louis Dreyfus Citrus Inc. and the Winter Garden Community Garden.
“But when I introduced the Shepherd’s Hope and the concept, they were gracious enough to see the value for the community and have bent over backward with us with this land,” Swanson said.
“We are pleased with our partnership and how the mission of Shepherd’s Hope dovetails with our health and wellness initiatives for the community,” Winter Garden City Manager Mike Bollhoefer said. “The location is ideal since it is next to the Winter Garden Community Garden that will be adding a farming component and a pavilion that will house a weekly farmers market for East Winter Garden.”
Preliminary plans call for a redesigned and upgraded community garden with a pavilion, open lawn, a children’s garden and public art.
Shepherd’s Hope has had many “hope moments” in its 19 years.
“People will come and tell us something they’ve had happen where Shepherd’s Hope has saved their lives,” Stahlman said.
These hope moments include discovering an undiagnosed heart murmur in an 11-year-old who was subsequently treated at Nemours Children’s Hospital, facilitating a double-lung transplant for someone who was given a month to live and assisting a patient who was rationing heart medication to make it last longer.
“This is probably our biggest hope moment,” she said of the approved facility. “There are many families who go without because healthcare access is difficult. Anything we can do to help.”
“I am thrilled to see the three of us come together and be able to do something on this scale and magnitude and that otherwise wouldn’t be possible,” Swanson said. “It’s just a nice collaboration of community partners, and I think the more we can do of these type things, the better our community will be.”
The West Orange Healthcare District is an independent special entity created by an Act of the 1949 Florida Legislature and is governed by a 16-member board appointed by the governor of Florida. From its beginning, the purpose of the District has been to improve access to healthcare services for residents of West Orange County.
The West Orange Health Alliance was formed more than 15 years ago to help the uninsured and underinsured gain access to primary care. Recently, the alliance sold its building on Plant Street and began pursuing different ways to use the proceeds from that sale to benefit the underserved community in West Orange County.
Contact Amy Quesinberry Rhode at [email protected].