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Phil Mishkin CARES senior center put up for sale

PORT RICHEY — The senior center that bears the name of the late state Rep. Phil Mishkin now has another sign: For sale.

The 12,500-square-foot building on Rottingham Road went on the market about two weeks ago. The nonprofit agency that owns the property, Community Aging and Retirement Services, or CARES, decided to put it on the market and consolidate its programs with those the Rao Musunuru M.D. Enrichment Center about 2 miles away in the Beacon Woods neighborhood.

The sale price is listed at $825,000.

"It's a way to cut costs and save our budget like everyone else is doing," said Charles Sobel, chief financial officer for CARES.

He estimated the agency could save $100,000 a year in administrative and overhead costs by selling the building, which opened in 1990.

Sobel said no programs will be eliminated as a result of the move, which will take place after the agency finds a buyer. The center housed mainly offices anyway, and the 30 staffers who work there will be moved to other centers.

The agency, which has a $5 million annual budget and 150 staffers, is not in financial trouble, Sobel said. The decision to move was more proactive.

"We're holding our own," he said. "Our fundraising has held up pretty well."

CARES first became a part of Pasco County in 1973. A group of seven volunteers, concerned about the lack of services for older residents, incorporated the organization as a private, nonprofit agency dedicated to senior advocacy. It was known back then as the Council on Aging.

The agency began with no paid staff. Expenses were paid with donations kept in a shoe box closely guarded by a pair of volunteers, according to the CARES Web site.

Within a year of its founding, the number of volunteers grew to 53 and received money to begin a countywide information and referral service and to establish a transportation service for seniors (subsequently spun off to the county). From 1979 to 1981, three multipurpose senior centers were opened to provide education, social and recreational opportunities for older adults.

In 1984, the first executive director was hired to manage a 60-member staff that now has responsibility for federal and state home care programs for the elderly. Four years later, the agency changed its name to CARES to better reflect its mission.

The CARES Home Health Agency was licensed in 1989, and 50 home health aides joined the CARES team. Through the years, CARES home care services continued to develop. A free medical clinic for low-income and uninsured seniors opened in 1992. The agency was certified as a Medicaid provider in 1994 and as a Medicare provider in 1999. Three more senior enrichment centers were opened. CARES centers offer wellness, educational, social and recreational programs. Adult day health centers in New Port Richey and Dade City were opened in 2006.

CARES opened the Rottingham Road center in 1990, the same year Mishkin, a Democrat with a reputation for senior advocacy, won the House District 46 seat.

Mishkin, who was 75 when first elected, served two terms. During that time, he initiated legislation that created the Florida Department of Elder Affairs. He died in 1995 following heart surgery. A letter penned by then-Gov. Lawton Chiles and read at Mishkin's memorial service called him a leader whose actions made us "more of a community and less of a crowd."

A year later, CARES named the center in his honor.

Even though the building is being sold, the agency will continue to formally honor Mishkin's contributions, CARES president and chief executive officer Bill Aycrigg said.

The upper level that houses the home health care staff will likely be named for Mishkin.

"It will be important for us to keep alive Rep. Mishkin's ideals, and I'll be discussing that at the next board meeting," Aycrigg said. I'm sure we want to continue his legacy."

Lisa Buie can be reached at buie@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4604.

fast facts

On the Web

For information about CARES and its programs, visit www.caresfl.org. For information about the property for sale, visit www.markswartsel.com.

Phil Mishkin CARES senior center put up for sale 07/01/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 1, 2009 9:10pm]
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