With a $1 million partnership in hand, the town of Oakland will add another component to the Arts & Heritage Center at Oakland, now under construction near Town Hall: health and wellness.
The funding will go toward the building construction, including outdoor amenities.
The partnership between the town and the West Orange Healthcare District was approved Tuesday, Aug. 13, at the Oakland Town Commission meeting. After the vote, WOHD trustees presented an oversized check to the commission. Mark Griffith, a fifth-generation Oakland resident who is serving as WOHD chair this year, was among those there for the presentation.
This partnership gives the healthcare district naming rights to the facility — the West Orange Healthcare District Arts & Heritage Center at Oakland — and provides the town with grant funding to turn the center into a meeting place for improving community health and wellness through health, arts and heritage programs and activities.
This grant will allow for additional programming that will include nutrition and fitness programs, health screenings and back-to-school physicals in cooperation with healthcare providers and partnering organizations such as Shepherd’s Hope and Orlando Health, Mayor Kathy Stark said.
“By naming the facility and enabling Oakland to provide health and wellness services and programming in such a prominent space in the community, we'll have tremendous exposure to Oakland residents and many other district residents who use the West Orange Trail every month,” said Tracy Swanson, CEO of the West Orange Healthcare District. “We are excited about the potential and look forward to collaborating on many new ways to encourage health and wellness.”
The services and programs aren’t all that will take place there, either. Plans are in the works for growing gardens and adding more parking space for bicycles.
“The grant will also allow for vegetable and herb gardens with signage on the benefits of eating well and safe and secure bike racks to encourage bike riding,” Stark said. “This is a great benefit to our residents, and we are very grateful for the support and trust the district has placed in us.”
The healthcare district’s branding will be part of the arts and heritage center, and a sculpture of Westly, the mascot of Healthy West Orange, will be placed on the grounds.
Construction of the community center started in February; it is located west of Oakland Town Hall at North Tubb Street and the West Orange Trail. Town officials expect the center to open to the public by this winter.
“When we began talking with town leaders, we were impressed with their commitment to the health and wellbeing of their community and their vision for leveraging this facility and the proximity it has to the West Orange Trail, clearly one of the town's biggest assets,” Swanson said. “They shared with us that many new residents were choosing to live in Oakland because it had such a healthy vibe and they wanted to find a way to really enable and grow that reputation.”
The district was created 70 years ago to improve access to healthcare in West Orange County. Today, its mission still is to invest in community-based initiatives that help improve residents’ health and wellbeing, as well as to champion the new grassroots movement Healthy West Orange.
“Our partnership with the town of Oakland is a perfect opportunity to put that mission into action,” Swanson said. “Oakland is a great place for highlighting our focus on health and wellness, as it is the municipality nearest our farthest western boundary connecting to other district communities via the West Orange Trail.”
Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.