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Citrus Park

Land found to build home for disabled adults

The project, being spearheaded by Tampa Jewish Family Services, will serve mildly challenged adults to those with profound needs.

© St. Petersburg Times
published February 28, 2003

CITRUS PARK -- Jewish community leaders are moving ahead to launch a residential treatment facility for disabled adults.

The plan, already in progress, was bolstered when land became available on the grounds of the Jewish Community Center at Gunn Highway east of the Veterans Expressway.

The Tikvah division of Tampa Jewish Family Services, one of the organizations spearheading the project, says it will serve a variety of residents, from mildly challenged adults to some with profound needs.

"Tikvah means hope in Hebrew," said the organization's coordinator, Ricki Lewis. "We were started by a group of parents who were looking for mutual support and services for their special needs children that were not being offered by the Jewish community. Finding a place for these individuals who can't live on their own is one of the hopes of all of these parents, especially as the parents age."

The project spans Tampa Bay, combining efforts of the Citrus Park-based Jewish Family Services and Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services in Pinellas County.

"It's better that there is a place before Mom and Dad are gone -- a place the parents know the child is taken care of, where there is some supervision after they're gone," said Tikvah member Ron Oxman, who is retired at 67 in St. Petersburg. "And there isn't any Jewish place like that here, that teaches Jewishness, that lives Jewishness."

Oxman's interest is partly fueled by his 42-year-old son, Jeff, who can drive and hold a job but still faces learning challenges.

"On a scale of one to 10 he's an 111/2, but he does need help with certain things, especially financial supervision," Oxman said. "We'd love to be able to have a place for him nearby, a place we know he will be well taken care of."

Parent Bev Fink of Original Carrollwood had similar concerns about her 20-year-old daughter, Elizabeth.

"She has mild learning problems and motor problems, but she would like to live as independently as she can," said Fink, an office administrator. "If I can provide a Jewish atmosphere for her, too, I would love it."

Building plans have yet to be drawn up, because the group has been waiting until now to choose a location among several sites available at the campus.

"This will have important advantages for our residents, because there is already an ALF there (the Weinberg Village assisted living facility), and there is a preschool, both of which would have potential for volunteering or real work for our residents," Lewis said.

"There's also a pool, tennis courts, a lake, a gymnasium and more, and these things will all help enrich our residents' lives."

While the religious backgrounds of the residents may vary, Lewis stressed that the facility will be run with a commitment to Jewish values, observing Jewish dietary laws as well.

The group plans to meet again within the next six weeks to discuss funding.

"The fundraising committee will have to meet to determine its endowment options," Lewis said. "But we've got to have such a fund before anything gets under way in order to cover the little extras that will make the facility so much better."

For more information about plans for the facility, call Lewis at 960-1848, ext 224.

-- Reporter Sheryl Kay can be reached at

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