^pBy JIMMY PETERS

Arcadian Hometown Editor

Looking for a recipe for a miracle? Just come up with the right people dedicated to a common goal, add a few dreams, a great deal of hard work and cooperation, a lot of faith, and let God take over.

This is exactly what has happened on 88 acres along Arnold Andrews Avenue. Arcadia city and DeSoto County officials, the Catholic Diocese of Venice, Catholic Charities, and scores of individuals came together on Friday to welcome an important, attractive and affordable housing community for seniors—the St. John Paul II Villas.

Attending the ribbon-cutting celebration were, among others, the Most Reverend Frank J. Dewane, bishop of the Diocese of Venice, Catholic Charities Housing CEO Philomena Pereira, The Knights of Columbus Color Guard, Arcadia administrator Terry Stewart, and National Development of America president Rick Miller. Remarks were delivered by Elaine Sarlo, regional director with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s office, Libby Bolles, deputy district director for U.S. Rep. Greg Steube, DeSoto County commissioner J.C. Deriso, and Arcadia mayor Jaccarie Simons, who ended his comments on this high note: “Catholic Charities and the Diocese of Venice have done a great job in seeking out the needs in our community, and then acting to bring this vision into reality.”

A group led by Catholic Charities under the guidance of Bishop Dewane in 2013 completed phase one construction of the Casa San Juan Bosco housing community for local farmworkers. That has been a huge and welcomed success in DeSoto County, where such housing is needed. The new St. John Paul II Villas complex next door is 64 affordable housing units for seniors 55 and up. There are 32 one bed, one bath, 538-square-foot homes priced at $386 to $442 per month, all income-based. The other 32 two-bed, two bath, 707-square-foot units will rent from $471-$608. Maximum income allowed for one resident in a home is $21,900, two residents combined income maximum is $25,020, and combined income for three residents in one home is $28,140 maximum.

What’s most important is the introduction of affordable housing, something Florida sorely needs, and a demand Catholic Charities Housing is racing to provide in Southwest Florida.

The St. John Paul II Villas took 10 months to construct and cost $8 million with funding from the Florida Housing Finance Corp., SunTrust bank, the Affordable Housing Program through the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta, DeSoto County SHIP funds and individual donors. National Development of America, Inc. out of Fort Myers built the subdivision.

“The city of Arcadia played an important role in the success of this project by lowering the impact fees,” CEO Philomena said.

The new neighborhood features a community room, computer lab and classes. The units have a washer and dryer, dishwasher, range/refrigerator, microwave, garbage disposal, plus each is cable ready. A bus service is also available at the community bus shelter.

Bishop Dewane concluded, “We always reach out to help our brothers and sisters. There is a tremendous need for affordable housing and to be able provide this to seniors is a blessing. You know, one woman came up to me and said with tears in her eyes ‘I moved here in 1981 and this is the nicest house I’ve ever lived in.’

“At that moment, I thought, we’ve done the right thing. It’s a blessed day in Arcadia, a good day as we celebrate the completion of this project.”

So the St. John Paul II Villas subdivision is a reality. And now that we know the recipe, maybe it’s time to work together on another miracle.

For details, call Dawn, 863-884-2123^p

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