By: Jen Russon
Mere feet from the city of Parkland, the Shoppes at Heron Lakes in Coral Springs is a popular spot for residents in both communities. Marjory Stoneman Douglas, with its eagle mascot, is the closest high school, so it’s no surprise to see “MSD Strong” banners everywhere one looks: at the pizza and ice cream shops, L.A. Fitness and Tunies just to name a few.
On March 25, a new space is joining the shopping center: a community wellness center specifically created to serve the MSD/Eagles community, one year after the school shooting massacre, and most recently, two students who have died by suicide.
Called Eagles’ Haven, it gives those with a connection to the high school, such as past, present and future alumni, families and staff, a nurturing place to seek support in the way of fun and healing wellness activities. Or, they can simply come in for a cup of coffee – everything the Haven has to offer comes free of charge.
The center is made possible by generous funding from the Children’s Services Council, the United Way of Broward County and is powered by JAFCO, a local nonprofit, who has supported families in the South Florida community for the past 25 years.
“We cannot change what happened, but we can come together to begin to focus on wellness”, said JAFCO Founding Executive Director, Sarah Franco.
Staff at the facility are all licensed clinicians, and committed to manning the center seven days a week. The center received input from wellness centers around the country that served Sandy Hook, Pulse, Las Vegas and other communities affected by gun violence.
Eagles’ Haven Director Julie Gordon, a clinician who has worked at JAFCO for the past 18 years, said the center’s top priority is to help individuals and families navigate the multiple services available and find an ideal fit – albeit, support groups, yoga, kickboxing or the creative arts. These activities will be overseen and planned by Andy Seidner, owner of LiveWell1440, a workplace wellness consulting company. She said the Eagles’ Haven center will connect families to any needed service; that they are encouraged to call with any problem, big or small.
In explaining the myriad of things that Eagles’ Haven is, Gordon was clear on what it is not. It is not a therapy center.
“It’s a place for all of us to come together to rediscover wellness and restore hope – one conversation, one cup of coffee or one hug at a time”, said Gordon, adding that no one should feel alone or suffer in silence.
Eagles’ Haven navigators are already working to provide in-home appointments or phone consultations to MSD/Eagles families before the center officially opens. Because the center would like to offer food, future donations from local businesses is on the table for discussion.
For more information or to get in contact with Eagles’ Haven navigators, click here. Open from 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
For immediate help, 24 hours a day, call the Suicide Prevention line at 1-800-273-8255.
- Jen Russon is a freelance writer and English Language Arts teacher. She has published two novels to Amazon Kindle and lives in Coral Springs with her family.