St. Joseph Garden Courts spruces up for Spring

Residents enjoy the breezeway at St. Joseph Garden Court in Orlando, a HUD community operated by Catholic Charities of Central Florida. (GLENDA MEEKINS)

Brand new windows and a fresh coat of paint have the residents of St. Joseph Garden Court feeling happy and even more independent. The senior-living community and social hall got a much-needed makeover just in time for spring.

Every single pane window was replaced in all apartments to “increase the comfort level of the tenants and to increase energy efficiency,” explained Rick Baker, Facilities Manager for the Diocese of Orlando. “We also painted the entire exterior of the building and sealed the walkways.”

Hilda Martinez would still be living with one of her four sons had it not been for St. Joseph Garden Court. Martinez moved to the community five years ago, after living with her son and five grandchildren. She had her own room, but says, “I wanted my own things, my privacy and I wanted my children to have their privacy with their families.” She adds, “I still go and see them, but I have my own space here. I have a comfortable one bedroom, one bath apartment with a kitchen and living room. I love it here.”

The affordable housing community opened in 2009 with 79 apartments and is subsidized by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. It is located near great dining and shopping and open to qualifying residents 62 years and older. Monthly rent is usually $400 or less, depending on the individual’s income. Many residents call it a true blessing. They have freedom to come and go when they please, without feeling they are burdening family.

Naddy Ramirez is the full-time service coordinator at St. Joseph Garden Courts. She helps residents with social services, medical paperwork, and ensures monthly activities keep the seniors active. Ramirez says, “Just the satisfaction in their (the residents) face,” makes her job so rewarding. She also provides blood pressure checks and informative talks on health and nutrition. A social committee made up of residents adds to the enjoyment with bingo and other gatherings.

The community is also close to St. Joseph/St. Maximillian Kolbe Parish in Orlando—a bonus for the many residents involved in parish life. Father Todd Carpenter, OFM felt it was important to reach out to their neighbors. “We had gone over there a couple of times and gotten a tour and realized, wow, there are quite a few of our parishioners living over there and a lot of them come to daily Mass.” It began a desire to foster meaningful relationships.

The proximity to the church also offers those without transportation an opportunity to continue to serve. The parish youth group is spending more time with the residents and Father Luis Aponte, OFM recently facilitated the Living the Eucharist study in the senior center’s social hall.

Blanca and Luis Toro are one of the few couples who live in the community. They are from Colombia and lived in nearby government housing, but wanted to be closer to their children. “We lived with one of our daughters and a son for a couple of years. It’s calm here and well-accompanied because we have great neighbors who help each other often.” They attend daily Mass frequently and love the addition of the Spanish Mass so they don’t have to commute to more distant parishes. The waiting list at St. Joseph Garden Courts is currently four years, but manager Gilberto Dejardens encourages those interested to apply. They are always open to welcoming applicants and serving the senior community.

For more information call 407-382-0808.

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic – May 14, 2018