Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Arc Nature Coast's new center to provide safe harbor from storms

SPRING HILL — For Mark Barry, the devastating back-to-back hurricanes that ripped through Hernando County in 2004 were more than a scare. They were a wake-up call.

Barry's concerns over the winds from Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne, which caused widespread power outages, downed trees and flooded roads, weren't limited to himself and his family. He feared for the men and women living in the four special-needs group homes operated by Arc Nature Coast.

As executive director of the nonprofit agency, it was up to Barry to come up with a plan to make sure the needs of the developmentally disabled residents were met. He scrambled to secure enough resources to endure the storm, calling on Arc employees, who dutifully set aside their own home responsibilities to drive hazardous streets to deliver food and provisions and provide relief to weary caretakers.

Though he and his staff managed to survive the close call, the ordeal convinced Barry of the urgency to come up with a better answer to serving the region's developmentally disabled residents in such times, one that would take into consideration their unique needs.

Six years later, that answer has begun to rise on a parcel of land on Partridge Street, just off of Mariner Boulevard, in Spring Hill. Scheduled for completion by next May, the 8,500-square-foot structure will serve a dual role as an education facility and regional evacuation shelter, which from Barry's perspective ultimately defines Arc's mission in the community.

"It's something this area has needed for so long," Barry said. "When you consider the number of customers we serve, it's somewhat amazing to think that we're only now getting this done."

By day, the center will serve as Arc's West Hernando headquarters and the new location of the agency's Community Cafe, a training facility where computer skills, art and fitness will be taught to clients. In addition, the agency plans to host events such as dances and dinners.

The agency will keep its administrative offices on Neff Lake Road, east of Brooksville, and will continue to offer some services at that facility.

With its heavily reinforced steel and concrete walls and roof, the new Spring Hill structure will be a veritable fortress, capable of withstanding Category 4 hurricane winds. The self-contained facility will be equipped with emergency backup power, a commercial-size kitchen and can be stocked with enough water and food to comfortably sustain up to 300 people for at least three days.

While the county operates a special needs shelter during emergencies, its aim is more toward serving those with medical needs, said Hernando County Emergency Management director Cecilia Patella. The Arc shelter will fulfill a need that Emergency Management isn't equipped to meet.

"In a general-population shelter with a lot of people inside, you can't control things like noise and confinement, which can be very stressful to some individuals," Patella said. "The Arc shelter will provide a much more hospitable environment, especially if it's an emergency that's taking place over the course of a few days. It's going to be a valuable asset to the community."

As Arc's most ambitious project ever, the edifice will become the centerpiece of the 38-year-old agency's presence in the community, says Barry. At least some of the support the agency has received over the years, he said, can be measured by the generous financial gifts and donations made by individuals and businesses toward the new building.

"Communities support an agency like ours because they value the work that it does," said Barry, who has served as the agency's director since 1992. "We knew going in that it would take a lot of help to get this off the ground. We were lucky in that a lot of the right people went to bat for us."

Getting funding for the $1.9 million facility took determination and more than a little luck. Barry's hope was to be able to build the center without having to borrow money. Doing so in a tough economy wasn't easy.

A $1.1 million legislative allocation secured in 2008 by state Sen. Mike Fasano managed to escape the veto pen of Gov. Charlie Crist. A few months later, the agency got more good news when the county offered to donate 6.3 acres on which to build the facility.

Built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification, the building's many green features will significantly reduce overall operating costs. Additionally, Arc got another cost break when Hernando contractor Gregory Jarque offered to oversee construction of the facility at no charge to the agency.

"We've been pretty fortunate all around," Barry said. "To be able to undertake a project like this in the present economy was something that worried me. We're not an agency with entitlements. Everything we get comes by way of the community's goodwill."

The immediate challenge ahead for Arc is raising the final $300,000 needed to complete the project. Linda Hamilton, director of the capital campaign launched by Arc earlier this year, said about $200,000 has been raised so far, mostly through the sale of commemorative patio bricks and naming rights to various features of the new building and grounds. As building has progressed, she's seen more interest from potential donors.

"When people come out to visit the site, they see how important this is going to be to our community," Hamilton said. "In the end, what we're offering is the opportunity to be part of something very special."

Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or [email protected]

Arc Nature Coast's new center to provide safe harbor from storms 09/04/10 [Last modified: Saturday, September 4, 2010 12:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Anna Maria City Pier to close for year after 'extensive damage' from Hurricane Irma

    Travel

    ANNA MARIA — While Hurricane Irma's last-minute shift helped spare large swaths of Florida cities from catastrophic damage, the Anna Maria City Pier didn't fare so well.

    A damage assessment following Hurricane Irma suggests repairs for the Anna Maria City Pier can take at least 12 months. [LUIS SANTANA for Visit Florida]
  2. Photo of the Day for September 26, 2017 - Flying gecko on glass

    Human Interest

    Today's Photo of the Day comes from Wayne Rayburn of Tarpon Springs, FL. He calls it "Flying gecko on glass."

  3. Candidate in East Hillsborough House primary didn't vote in primaries

    Elections

    TAMPA — Personal voting histories show a sharp difference between Yvonne Fry and Lawrence McClure, the two candidates in the Republican special election primary Oct. 10 for East Hillsborough's District 58 state House seat.

    Yvonne Fry, Republican candidate for state House District 58, has voted in 34 elections at all levels since 1994. She likes to vote on election day, she said, and considers it a national holiday. [Courtesy of Yvonne Fry]
  4. Water and some food scarce as Puerto Rico emerges from storm

    World

    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Supermarkets are gradually re-opening in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico but the situation is far from normal and many customers are going home disappointed.

    People wait in line outside a grocery store to buy food that wouldn't spoil and that they could prepare without electricity, in San Juan, Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. Most stores and restaurants remained closed Monday. Nearly all of Puerto Rico was without power or water five days after Hurricane Maria. [Associated Press]
  5. Tampa-based vXchnge secures $200M loan to expand operations

    Corporate

    TAMPA — Tampa-based vXchnge, which operates data centers in 14 metro areas, has secured a loan for roughly $200 million for "major expansions and enhancements."

    Tampa-based vXchnge, a data center provider, secured a $200 million loan. Pictured is CEO Keith Olsen. | [Courtesy of vXchnge]