ALMC to give $27K to Vitality Center

Published 9:30 am Friday, November 13, 2009

The Albert Lea Medical Center intends to donate $27,000 toward making the Vitality Center in downtown Albert Lea a reality.

ALMC Chief Administrative Officer Steve Waldhoff made the announcement Thursday evening at an open house for the Vitality Center’s planned location on the first floor of the historic Jacobson Building.

“Becoming part of the Vitality Center is our attempt to say we want to promote a healthy community,” Waldhoff said.

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Monetary donations toward the establishment of Albert Lea’s new Vitality Center more than doubled on Thursday during the open house. It is to be a place for the facilitation of new and ongoing vitality initiatives on a local and national level.

ALMC’s donation will help establish a solid foundation for the project and give it momentum, Waldhoff said. He pointed out how much he and other ALMC leaders want to see the project be successful.

Albert Lea has an opportunity to make a significant impact on the rest of the country, he said.

The announcement brings monetary donations to the Vitality Center up to $47,000. AARP and United Health Foundation donated $10,000 each during the AARP/Blue Zones Vitality Project celebration in October.

“This year has just been an amazing process for the town of Albert Lea and all of its members,” said Cathy Purdie, who welcomed area residents and visitors during the open house.

In October, Albert Lea concluded the pilot Vitality Project, which aimed to help residents live longer, healthier lives. AARP and Blue Zones leaders called the project a success, and multiple media outlets across the state and nation have reported on the progress.

The Albert Lea City Council approved the Vitality Center space at its meeting Oct. 26, and demolition on the interior of the space began days later.

Though the pilot portion of the project is over, local leaders have announced they plan to continue with the initiatives and work to make Albert Lea known for its health efforts. They hope to make this possible through the Vitality Center downtown.

Purdie called the ALMC donation a “key piece” to advancement of the project in 2010.

City Manager Victoria Simonsen said the donation is a strong message to the community that this is the right direction.

“This is a tremendous start for what we need to transform this building,” she said, calling the donation “extremely generous.”

Historic restoration architect Pat Waddick said the open house was a good educational experience for many in attendance, where people got to see what demolition work has already taken place in the space and what items and services are needed to open the center by the first of the year.

“Just the energy, you can feel it,” Waddick said.

The Vitality Team and Hy-Vee have partnered for a longevity foods gift basket fundraiser for the new Vitality Center. Baskets, filled with longevity foods, are being sold for $25. They can be ordered at the Community Development Office and will be available for pickup at a later date in December.

Albert Lea Mayor Mike Murtaugh said he thought there was a superb crowd in attendance at the event. In addition to local residents, potential developers from out of town were also in attendance.

“We’re really seeing some interest from outside in seeing this happen,” Murtaugh said.

The city owns the Jacobson Building and its neighbor, the Freeborn National Bank.

Anyone interested in donating time, materials or finances for the Vitality Center can contact the Community Development Office at 377-4315.

Vitality Team leaders hope to have the center ready to open by the first of the year.