EWA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - By: Melanie Yamaguchi
A new St. Francis Healthcare System center would provide both a learning place for children and elderly as well as a safe environment that families would feel comfortable with, the center's foundation president said Thursday at a dedication ceremony.
"This is a place where the keiki and the kupuna get to work together in a safe environment and that's really what it's all about," Sister William Marie Eleniki said.
The 15,000-square-foot intergenerational center, located on Oohao Street in Ewa Villages, will offer a preschool as well as an adult day care under one roof. It can accommodate up to 42 adults and 88 children between 3 to 6 years old.
"Basically, the center is an extension of St. Francis Healthcare system and we're really, really working on what the needs are in the community, and helping the seniors and the elderly is really important," Eleniki said.
Staff of St. Francis, the Catholic healthcare system, first envisioned the center about three years ago as simply an adult day care center. However, Eleniki, former principal of Our Lady of Good Counsel and St. Michael's School, said it would be more exciting to include a preschool.
Actual construction of the building began March 2012 and finished mid-February. It was a project that cost about $8 million with help from government grants and donations from local foundations. Such donors include the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the state of Hawaii.
"It's awesome," Eleniki said. "When we started, we were a little hesitant and then all of a sudden people were very generous and so it was really kind of nice."
Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who attended the dedication ceremony, touted the intergenerational center as a symbol of the unique bond shared between children and adults.
"Every one of them is utterly, totally, completely dependent on the judgment and good will of the adults that are around us today," Abercrombie said. "Adults here and all across the state."
Abercrombie, who has advocated for early childhood development and education in the state Legislature, said the center exemplifies a need for similar partnerships to develop in order to fulfill his goal of improved education.
"This isn't about church and state, this about our children and their future," Abercrombie said. "I want to be able to partner from the state with whoever is willing. If there are people in faith who put that faith behind creating an edifice like this, what difference does it make what the motivation is?"