By Srianthi Perera
The nonprofit Azcend has been chosen to establish and run social services at Page Park Center.
The building that formerly housed Gilbert’s first library also has been renamed Heritage Center because of its location in the Heritage District. Its 800 square feet of space is undergoing a $1.1 million renovation to outfit it for the new role.
The Heritage Center will be a centralized resource for information, referrals and access to basic necessities for five populations in the town: families and individuals in crisis, those afflicted by mental health and substance abuse, those with low/moderate income, elderly/seniors and the homeless.
“We are excited to be part of a center that offers a range of services from a variety of nonprofits in order to assist people in Gilbert,” said Trinity Donovan, CEO of Azcend, formerly known as the Chandler Christian Community Center.
The nonprofits include Southwest Behavioral Health, Mission of Mercy, the Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and Dignity Health.
Services from Dignity Health include diabetes education, chronic disease self-management education, injury prevention education, children’s dental services, hearing and vision screenings and immunizations for both children and adults.
The resources will be provided by non-profit providers and the town of Gilbert will not provide funding to the nonprofits or to Azcend. However, the building’s anticipated maintenance and utility fees for 2018, about $23,000, will be provided by the town.
“Each nonprofit is providing existing or new funding to move or expand their services to the Heritage Center,” Donovan said. “Some of the providers have secured all of their funding while others are continuing to fundraise and write grants to finalize all of the support they need to provide their services.”
In addition to its charitable work in Chandler, Azcend is the umbrella organization that runs the various assistance programs housed in the Gilbert Senior Center, next door to the Heritage Center. These include senior nutrition, home-delivered meals, activities and outings.
Donovan said she also plans to run the Community Action Program, a social service program, in the new building. Azcend will continue to seek grants and donations for CAP and to expand other programs and activities, she said.
Although perceived as an affluent community, Gilbert recognized certain portions of its population needed help following a needs assessment it assigned a few years ago.
The Heritage Center will provide resources and services to address items identified in the needs assessment, including counseling for children, nutrition resources, rent and utility assistance, wellness education, and dental and medical services, Donovan said.
After the renovation, the building will have office, meeting room and classroom space. This will include foundational service providers that will utilize dedicated space, along with other partners who will rotate through shared spaces to maximize what can be offered at the center.
Page Park Center is named for Walter M. Page, a Gilbert mayor in the 1930s who owned a grocery store during the Great Depression. Despite the dire times, the mayor was known to be generous to the needy.
In his communication to Town Council in December, Town Manager Patrick Banger referred to its past as Gilbert’s first library in 1964.
After the library outgrew the space, parks and recreation activities were held there until the Community Center was built adjacent to accommodate the expansion of programs. The building also has been used as an overflow site for a school as well as the site for the special census.
“The building will remain a special part of the Heritage District as it continues to serve residents into the future,” Banger wrote.
Former Mayor John Lewis proposed the new moniker to “honor and celebrate both the history of the building and the future impact for residents,” Banger also wrote.
The town plans to create an engraved plaque outlining the building’s history, noting the inspiration of Mayor Page; the contribution of the Blakely family, who provided financial support in finishing the original building as the first library, and former Mayor Lewis, who reimagined the use of the building in support of the community.