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Monday, October 18, 2021

A grassroots organization will finally see the fruits of its labor in the form of a renovated community center.

On Monday, renovations began at the Southwest Gainesville Advocacy Group Resource Center, a community center that has been in the works for two years.

The 3,100-square-foot center will serve as a meeting place for families and an after-school facility for children and teenagers. The center will open its doors in mid-April.

The Alachua County Commission gave the group $225,000 to purchase two buildings, one of which will serve as the resource center, Commissioner Susan Baird said. The group hopes to turn the second building into a public health clinic, but it needs more funding.

Visitors use learning materials, family planning resources and health services, among other resources. The site will have a playground, a meeting room, two play areas and a kitchen, said Dorothy Benson, chairwoman of the Southwest Gainesville Advocacy Group.

Southwest Gainesville, between Tower Road and Interstate 75, had one of the highest densities of crime in Alachua County in 2009, according to data compiled by the Alachua County Sheriff's Office.

When residents who lived along Tower Road learned about this data, they formed the group to help strengthen and empower families in the area, Benson said.

"I remember hearing mothers in the area talk about how they didn't want their children to play outside because it was unsafe," Benson said. "That's unacceptable."

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