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After nearly a decade in the making, new adult day center in Hilo is dedicated

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Keith Kato, executive director of HICDC

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald

    The new Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Adult Day Center in Hilo.

  • Marcie Saquing, executive director of Hawaii Island Adult Care, and Paula Uusitalo, former HIAC executive director, hug Monday during the dedication of the new Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Adult Day Center.

  • Photos by HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald

    Betty Nagao, center, smiles as she walks with Lizby Logsdon and Carlina Ragual through the new Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Adult Day Center for the first time Monday during a dedication ceremony for the center in Hilo.

The long-awaited Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Adult Day Center was dedicated Monday, nearly a decade after plans for such a facility were first discussed.

Located adjacent to the Mohouli Heights Senior Neighborhood, the new $8.7 million, 19,414-square-foot day center is a partnership between Hawaii Island Community Development Corporation, which managed the construction of the facility, and Hawaii Island Adult Care, which will provide programs and services there.

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HIAC, now located on Rainbow Drive in the former — and aging — Hilo Memorial Hospital, provides adult day care for elders and cognitively impaired and challenged adults.

HICDC is a nonprofit that aims to assist low to moderate income Big Island residents obtain affordable housing.

Leaders of the two organizations and others, including Mayor Harry Kim, addressed the crowd, highlighting the nearly decade-long project’s history and importance.

HIAC Executive Director Marcie Saquing said the group’s prior executive director, Paula Uusitalo, who retired earlier this year, had the dream to build a new center to serve the kupuna and challenged adults of the community.

“So Paula never gave up,” she said. “Her hopes and dreams of completing our new center for our participants and their families kept her striving. So here we are today.”

Addressing Uusitalo, and sharing words of wisdom from her tutu, Saquing said that with patience, good things will come.

“The completion of this magnificent building, ready to serve all of our kupuna and challenged adults, ready to serve their families and our community, I would say that’s a pretty good thing,” she said. “So on behalf of our participants, their families, on behalf of our board of directors, our staff and our entire community, thank you, Paula. Thank you so very much for not letting your hopes and dreams and vision fade away that’s right here before us today.”

“We are amazed, all of us, that this is really here,” Uusitalo told the crowd “Our vision and dream has come true.”

The dream has only become a reality because of the partnership with Keith Kato and the Hawaii Island Community Development Corporation, she said.

“It was like a giant ray of light coming from the skies to have a partner join us who actually could build buildings,” Uusitalo said. “I knew then, this building would get done during my time. No words can say what this partnership has meant to us and Keith, how much we really appreciate everything that has happened all through the years working together.”

She thanked others for their roles, as well.

Fundraising for the project began in 2011, and in 2015 the infrastructure was built, “and that’s when we really knew things would finally happen — yay,” Uusitalo said, garnering a laugh from the audience.

“We fully deeply appreciate from all of our hearts, all the funders that have made our dream truly come true,” she said. “And we also fully appreciate our community — the love, the aloha, the support that we have received from all of you.”

Kato, executive director of HICDC, said his organization had never done a building like the new day center, but was glad to be a part of the project.

Monday’s blessing and dedication drew a crowd of nearly 100 people.

“I think for me, the greatest gift is the support of our community … and the fact that the kupuna are a priority, not only for us as business but for our community,” Saquing said after the ceremony.

HIAC hopes to move into the facility in the next few weeks.

Saquing said HIAC has been at its current location near Rainbow Falls for 37 years, “but the building is almost 100 years old, so it’s in disrepair.”

While the building, which is leased from the county “served its purpose, Paula had the foresight to realize we really did need our own building,” she said.

According to Saquing, HIAC is licensed to serve 105 individuals, but is currently serving between 63 and 70 on a daily basis.

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Once the new facility is running smoothly, the goal is to look at opportunities to potentially open day centers in Puna and Honokaa, she said.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.