(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2013)
Nearly a year-and-a-half after elected officials and representative from the Codman Square Health Center broke ground on the William J. Walczak Health and Education Center, the new facility is officially open for business.
The 35,000-square-foot, $18.2-million center in Dorchester is a big boost to the health care provider, increasing space for exam rooms and expanding facilities. But it will be the center’s patients and the students at the Codman Academy Public Charter School, housed in the center, who will benefit the most.
With 10 new classrooms, a library, dining facility, meeting rooms, and “black box” theater the students now have a school that they can call home and the community has a center that they can call theirs.
“It’s great to have a space we can call our own, the ribbon cutting just makes it official,” said Hector Lawrence, a 16-year-old junior at the school. “We use to be bunched up in small classrooms and there was no heat, now it’s nice and spacious.”
In addition to creating new space for the students and patients, the theater will be used for community meetings and local productions. A $175,000 grant from the Hunt Foundation will also help the theater bring its electrical, sound, and lighting system up to professional standards.
“Our vision for a health care and education really meets in this building. We were out of space and needed this desperately,” said Anthony Stankiewicz, chief advancement office for the center. “We finally have our vision in a physical location that can now be built upon.”
On Monday elected officials, community leaders, and staff from the center gathered in the new theater to official open the building and honor William J. Walczak who, since he moved to Codman Square in 1973, has dedicated much of his time and energy to the neighborhood and the center.
“Codman Square was burning down and it needed something and we decided that was a health center,” said Walczak, who helped cofound the center. “We figured if you combine the impact of good health care and good education we could turn peoples’ lives around.”
Established in 1979, the Codman Square Health Center currently provides over 22,000 area residents with primary medical care, urgent care, radiology, dentistry, and eye care services.
At Monday’s ceremonies officials reinforced the mission of the center and its commitment to the community.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino hailed the center and its staff as “innovative” and “creative.”
“Everyone talks about the renowned Boston health care and rightfully so, but I think our community health centers like Codman Square are just as impressive,” Menino told the crowd.
“This building, this idea, is about trying to fulfill a promise put out before our youth,” said Thabiti Brown, principal of the school. “It’s the promise that you can do anything and this building is a symbol of our attempt to keep that promise.”
As officials lined up to cut the ribbon and welcome the center to the neighborhood, Walczak was quick to note what an honor it is to not only have your name on a building, but work with the staff and students that populate it.
“It’s a great honor especially while you still breathing to get your name on the building,” Walczak, who stepped down from his position as CEO in 2011, told the crowd. “I’ve been known to get things done, but in reality none of that stuff happens unless you have a big supporting staff.”