By: Sharon Aron Baron
Realizing that the place Marjory Stoneman Douglas students, families and faculty went to get the help they needed looked cold and uninviting, Parkland Mayor Hunschofsky knew a transformation was necessary to make it a more inviting place.
The Broward County Resiliency Center, located at the Pine Trails Park Amphitheater, looked cold inside. The building had turned into a makeshift counseling center complete with folding tables and chairs. Used as a place where park rangers met, or where local groups would hold meetings, the center that needed to welcome the public needed a makeover.
At a Parkland Chamber event in April, Hunschofsky discussed the center, and she reached out to those in attendance to see if anyone would be willing to help decorate and warm up the place.
Parkland resident LaMae Klos decided to take on the challenge. Klos, owner of Klos Consulting in Coral Springs, has a freshman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas who lost many of her friends. “It’s affected me the way it has affected everyone at Stoneman. It’s unfathomable, but here we are.”
Klos said that Hunschofsky mentioned what she believed is keeping people away from the center. There wasn’t a good feeling when you come in. It’s not warm. It’s not inviting. So after that, I decided I would take this on. Klos immediately called her friend Cindy Lackey, a national healthcare recruiter at Teksystems because “she’s a doer who can make things happen.”
Lackey said the center felt like a makeshift backroom organization. “It was cold, it really wasn’t inviting. There were card tables and folding chairs. In three of the cubicles, there were folding tables and black folding chairs.”
The first thing the two did after making a needs assessment was to ask friends on Facebook for help. To their surprise, dozens of people offered used furniture, snacks, drinks, as well as anything they could do, including cleaning the carpets. Volunteer Nancy Holgate brought her equipment and cleaned all the stained carpets at the center.
In a three-week period they were able to collect items and design the area. Parkland resident Alison Omara, donated a couch, loveseat, rug, greenery and a jukebox for the teen room. Lackey said Omara has since moved and took them to her home where they were able to cherry-pick whatever they wanted to use in the center including school supplies. She told them whatever they didn’t use, sell and use towards the facility.
Lackey said that half of the items they purchased were from the OfferUp app. When sellers found out what their items would be used for, they either gave them away or took a discount.
Soon to be entirely repainted by the City of Parkland, Interior Designer Holly Kalisher chose the best paint colors for the rooms free of charge.
The resiliency center will be around for at least a couple of years said Klos. After doing research on centers after Sandy Hook, Aurora and Las Vegas, she found out they still have their centers.
“This is a long-term thing. This is not a short fix,” said Klos. “I love that Christine has taken this as her mission. I think that’s how the city is going to get where it used to be. I don’t know if it will ever be exactly the same, but this has to be a huge piece of it.”
Hunschofsky took a look at center last Friday and was impressed with the job they did. “The space is completely transformed into a warm and welcoming environment thanks to the hard work of LaMae Klos, Cindy Lackey and all the members of our community who helped out.”
Klos said their next biggest obstacle is now informing people the center is here. With counselors funded by Broward County Public Schools and the space donated by the city, the center needs very little to run as far as operating costs.
To encourage more students to visit the center, they are planning pizza nights, bringing therapy dogs back, and they hope that the teen lounge will encourage people to come, not to necessarily seek therapy, but to visit and be together. The MSD alumni group who is running programming in the P-REC center next door will also be cross-promoting their activities.
“Once summer comes, most students will be scattered to the wind,” said Klos. They are promoting the teen lounge with games and art projects set up so they can just drop in and spend time there.
Lackey, whose daughter is a freshman at MSD said someone suggested they plant a butterfly garden outside of the center. She said her daughter is very interested in helping with that.
“I think being together is just as therapeutic as actually having counseling,” said Klos. “There’s the advocacy, there’s hardening the schools, but from a community standpoint, us getting past this – we have to have this as part of the whole picture.”
The Broward County Resiliency Center is located at the City of Parkland Amphitheater, Pine Trails Park 10561 Trails End, Parkland, FL 33076
Hours and Groups through summer
Monday – Friday 12:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday 12:00 p.m. -5:00 p.m.
Student Support Group (Grades 9-12) Mondays from 6 p.m. – 6:45 p.m.
Parent Support Group Tuesdays from 6 p.m. – 7 p.m.
BCPS School Staff Support Group Thursdays from 4 p.m. – 5 p.m. begins
Knitting Support Group (Max 12 participants) Located Rec Center Activity Room 4 Open to adults 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.