Health and Wellness Complex is dream on the way to coming true

Sep 08, 2017

PANTHER 2017 fall groundbreak Jasminn Dow

Claflin President Henry N. Tisdale and first lady Alice Carson Tisdale, left, join in breaking ground for the new Health and Wellness Center on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. (Panther photo by Jasminn Dow)

Thursday marked the beginning of a new project for Claflin University as the groundbreaking ceremony was held for the new Claflin Health and Wellness Complex.

An expansion of the Jonas T. Kennedy Center, the new complex will extend to Clark Street, university President Henry N. Tisdale said. It will serve Claflin and the Orangeburg community.

“This groundbreaking ceremony for the Health and Wellness Complex is tangible evidence of our commitment to serve our students and provide the best environment for their success as future visionary leaders,” Tisdale said.

In addition to the expansion, existing facilities at JTK will be retrofitted and refurbished, Tisdale said.

 Architect Michael Allen of McMillan, Pazdan & Smith was in the lead on plans for the new complex. Allen said working with Tisdale was a great experience.

“Learning the history of the university helped me as a designer, and the company, and my team to understand how to keep the vision of the university into this building,” Allen said.

Additions to the complex will total 33,000 square feet and include:

  • An auxiliary gym for intramural sports and student organization use.
  • An indoor exercise track.
  • A demonstration kitchen for healthy cooking.
  • New office spaces for university faculty and staff.
  • New meeting rooms.
  • A Kinesiology Laboratory.
  • A multipurpose space.
  • Additional academic areas.

A special gateway on Clark Street will mark the location of the new complex, Tisdale said.

The complex will serve more than Claflin students, faculty and staff, Tisdale said. People of the community will be able to participate in exercise and nutrition programs, group fitness classes and health coaching.

There will even be space for a farmers market, Tisdale said.

“The mission of the health and wellness center is to provide a means for the Claflin community and the Orangeburg community to gain healthier lives,” Tisdale said.

Funding for construction came from several sources, including Orangeburg County Council, Sodexo, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Blue Cross-Blue Shield, AFLAC, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, and Claflin University’s Capital Campaign, Tisdale said. A couple of anonymous donors gave almost $1 million.

“It is truly a partnership, and it will truly serve the Orangeburg community,” Tisdale said.

The groundbreaking ceremony was a time for those involved with the construction of the new complex to put an emphasis on the benefits it will bring.

Chairman of the Claflin Board of Trustees James Bennett said, “This health and wellness center will give the university (Claflin) and the community the opportunity to come together and talk about health issues.”

Orangeburg County Councilman Willie B. Owens said, “It’s good to see this liberal arts college pursue this kind of activity. Orangeburg County and the surrounding communities will definitely benefit from what you are doing here today.”

State Director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development for South Carolina Michele J. Cardwell said, “Our mission at USDA is to improve the quality of life for rural America, for Orangeburg County. And just like Claflin University, we are very serious about improving quality of life.”

Cardwell announced that USDA awarded three grants to Claflin’s new complex totaling $149,000. The three grants will go toward the community kitchen, e-card readers and the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative for the farmers market.

Tisdale said that the dream of a health and wellness component began in 1980 after the original construction of the Jonas T. Kennedy Center, but the university did not have the available resources.

 “We are in 2017 ready to have that dream fulfilled,” Tisdale said. “It is teamwork that makes the dream work.”

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