Heartland Center breaks ground on new facility


Nancy Simpson/The Madera Tribune

Lori Ramirez (third from the right), of The Arc Fresno/Madera Counties, and clients and caregivers participate in the groundbreaking for the new state-of-the art building for the Heartland Training Center.

 

An official groundbreaking ceremony was held for the new Heartland Training Center.


The Arc of Fresno/Madera Counties hosted the event Wednesday morning with the help of Madera Chamber of Commerce. The new, state-of-the-art facility will be located near Matilda Torres High School, at 16482 Road 26 in Madera.


Arc of Fresno/Madera Counties Executive Director, Lori Ramirez, spoke about the facility and how meaningful this endeavor has been for all involved. She introduced and thanked those who have worked for the center, as well as others who have been supportive. Dignitaries and citizens attended this very meaningful ceremony.


“It’s been a dream for us to do this in Madera, she said. “We’ve been here a long time, doing services for adults with developmental disabilities. I want to start off first, thanking my board of directors that are here to support us.” She introduced each of the board members. “We’re just so blessed to have you all. Thank you.” And then, she thanked her key staff, the mayor, the dignitaries, and all the citizens attending.


The Arc training center in Madera, formerly known as Heartland Opportunity Center, has been serving adults with developmental disabilities for over 50 years. They will be celebrating a 70-year anniversary next year.


In line with what Heartland was doing, in 2013, The Arc decided to merged with Heartland.


“It’s been a wonderful partnership ever since,” Ramirez said. “I can’t believe nine years have gone by since that day. We currently serve 550 adults with disabilities from Fresno and Madera County, through six different programs, and with the help of 150 dedicated and caring staff.”


At the ceremony was a rendering of the new facility, along with the floor plan, showing 8,170 square feet, on a 2-acre lot. Ramirez explained that the 5,000 square feet of work space is a reduction from the current office in downtown in Madera, which is 12,000 square feet. The current building is over 65 years old, and in need of repair.


So, they made the decision to commit to a brand-new building, which will be state-of-the-art. Ramirez explained that the reduction in the size of the facility will mean that the clients are expected to be more in the community.


“An individual’s day could include time engaged in the community. It could be through teaching activities of daily living, like personal hygiene, writing their names, computer skills, podcasts, physical activities, anything like that,” she said. “And, now we would spend time wherever we can engage our individuals. We want them to be in and around the community, engaged in meeting each other, and so at this building, we will also do behavioral services.


“We do independent living for some that want to live independently. And we also most importantly, find employment opportunities for those who want to employ and earn a paycheck. Think of anybody that might want to volunteer or watch a higher up position we have people with disabilities ready to be part of a workforce really helpful with that opportunity.”


Ramirez introduced one of the clients who had been involved with the center for many years, Frank Jamison, and his caregiver sister, Sonia.


Sonia spoke about Frank’s involvement and how beneficial it has been for him. Frank was a participant in the program many years ago and it was under the old administration. At that time, he was living with their mother.


Sonia said, “It really was a godsend for her, because it gave him an opportunity to have participation, and social interaction with other people, which is one of the biggest gifts that the program offers. Its clientele gets out and socialize with each other. They teach many skills such as washing and hygiene issues. Over the years, Frank has had some medical issues, and we are very grateful for the staffing at Heartland for their knowledge. A little over two years ago, Frank had a massive heart attack at the program’s event. Due to the staff, they were able to keep him going with CPR. He recovered after a month in the hospital. And here he is now.”


Frank spoke briefly to express his gratitude to the staff and to all who attended the ceremony.


Certificates of recognition were given to Ramirez from Madera Mayor Santos Garcia, and the Madera County Board of Supervisors.


The groundbreaking was done with 11 shovels, first by the mayor, city council, and other dignitaries present, and a second groundbreaking was done with the clients present.