A Community Development Block Grant was awarded to the Florida Center for the Blind to help build a new preschool for visually impaired children in Marion County.
At the regular meeting of the Marion County Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday, March 15, commissioners unanimously approved a community development block grant of up to $600,000 for the Florida Center for the Blind, located at 1411 NE 22nd Avenue. in Ocala.
The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program is an initiative of the Housing and Community Development Act 1974, and it helps fund local community development. The goal of the program is to provide affordable housing and expand economic opportunities for low to middle income residents.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the CDBG program has several important community development values and principles:
- The flexibility of the program allows individuals and communities to design and implement strategies tailored to their own needs and priorities.
- The program’s emphasis on consolidated planning helps broaden and strengthen partnerships between all levels of government and the private sector.
- The program’s technical assistance activities and the outreach of beneficiaries help build the capacity of these partners.
Anissa Pierboni, president and CEO of the Florida Center for the Blind, said the center plans to use grant funds to establish a preschool in early 2023 to provide intensive early learning experiences. blind and visually impaired children. “We will then seek approval for a K-2 charter school, with the goal of integrating our students into our local public schools by third grade,” Pierboni said.
This preschool aims to break down many of the barriers that visually impaired children often face in school by equipping them with the skills they need to thrive socially and academically alongside their sighted peers. It will also help reduce costs for public schools by reducing the number of paraprofessionals needed for blind students.
Alan Altany, Ph.D. and Chairman of the Florida Center for the Blind, said, “This grant initiates a major expansion of our Ocala campus and will establish Marion County as a leader and model program for services that support blind and partially sighted people. After years of planning, our expansion is paying off and will transform the lives of blind and visually impaired babies, children, teens, adults and seniors.
According to a Marion County press release, CDBG proposals can be submitted year-round to meet identified goals, emerging needs and spending deadlines. Proposals will be evaluated based on how the project meets county goals, priority needs and national goals. All proposals, submitted as “pre-application”, must be submitted online via ZoomGrants.